arsvI remembered this lot from their debut EP The Abyss a couple of years back so wondered how the Flemish Filthsters as I had termed them had progressed. It would seem the Belgium mob have been fairly busy since it came out and released a split with Finns Azaghal, some live recordings and a single. They have also had a few line-up changes picking up a new drummer and guitarist in the process.

On first play of this their debut album it was pretty clear they had taken a step up and after dispensing with an intro ‘Damnation Of The Soul’ steams in like the clappers and the band unleash a black hell-storm that pretty much continues through the duration of the album. However they have found a bit of diversity along the way and this has more ideas going for it than just full-sale slaughter. If you are looking for something completely furious and full of blood-rage though, this isn’t going to disappoint as it hurtles off. Vocals are thick and cloying from S. also of Endless Sorrow and Hammerstorm and the drums are certainly far more powerful and controlled courtesy of new sticks-man Norgameus. Once things settle down a little there is plenty of groove found here along with a punkish swagger and a neat solo all flung into the cauldron. Headbanging is a necessity and as the barbarous and spiky cleave of ‘Fallen To The Realm’ piles in you can imagine this is quite a seething and volatile massacre when dished out live both on stage and in the pit. The ravenous orthodox hunger of the tightly honed unit is certainly noted and they definitely feel like a rather fiery flame is burning right up their unholy butts! They slow it all down into a gravid crawl on ‘Angel Of Angels’ allowing the vocals to rise and roar above the music. Some classic guitar riffs sounding like they have been spawned from the older Swedish players rear up and the track cataclysmically peels off in a fury again. They mix paces and atmosphere together well here and give the best of both worlds.

I’m not sure that using quite such a long sample as they do is a good idea. It fits in thematically with a track called ‘Extinguished Are the Candles of Holiness’ but it does break up the flow a bit. I should recognise it no doubt but not totally sure although it reminds a bit of Penny Dreadful voice wise. I guess it does the job making the track itself seem even more violent and deadly until it allows guitars to break through and groove away on a majestic mid-section. There’s plenty going on to keep you occupied and it has to be said the album overall does take a few listens, the sheer intensity of it and plenty of twists and turns keeping you on your toes. ‘Reign Of Darkness’ is a brooding sermon to the night if ever I have heard one and this slower approach suits the band well until ‘As Flames Spreads Into Chaos’ does exactly as suggested and scorches everything into an pyre of utmost annihilation.

Flames burning through the course of this perfectly honed 41 minute album Ars Veneficium culminate it all with ‘Bringer Of Light’ a savage denouement that leaves you feeling somewhat breathless as silence finally forms again. Definitely a step up in all levels here; Belgium blasphemy burns brightly once more!

(8/10 Pete Woods)