Fifteen years in and the Swedish-via-Chile outfit Hetroertzen show no signs of reigning back on their committed, transcendental approach to blasphemic black metal. ‘Uprising of the Fallen’, their sixth full-length (and first for Listenable) continues in the tradition of previous works, unveiling grandiose compositions and an unrelenting ambience of sinister, hissing malice lurking just beneath the surface of the cosmos.
It is perhaps a little less impenetrable than its predecessor – 2014’s much-acclaimed ‘Ain Soph Aur’ – with that record’s numerous interludes and ambient dalliances being eschewed this time around. However, a palpable sense of philosophical darkness nevertheless still plays out across much of the record, exemplified by the winding, beguiling guitar works on tracks such as ‘Path Bearer’ and ‘Upon the Thresholds’.
There are also moments when band step back from the abyss with moments of pure metal intensity which offer an intriguing counterpoint to the otherwise jagged potency of the riffing. The fist-raising chug that crashes in at around the four minute mark in ‘Zealous Procreation’ as an example is a wonderful diversion – an about face from the spidery lines that precede it yet as a moment of consolidated metal purity, perfectly in keeping with the record’s atmosphere. A similarly atavistic assault also emerges in ‘The Trial’ and it’s these sections that keep the album anchored firmly in a more traditional, weighty soundscape than previous releases.
Performance-wise, the standout observation here is for the as-ever intricately textured percussion of mainman Frater D and the impassioned bark of the vocals. This time out, the sticksman has taken a step back from the microphone and allowed guitarist Anubis to take to the fore, providing a commanding, martial bellow not dissimilar to that deployed by Dysangelium’s Sektarist 0.
The vocals of Anubis lend a desperate, forceful impetus to the lengthy songs here – indeed, as some of the material can be felt to lose focus, it is the power of the voice that brings them back into line, providing gravity and definition. So, whilst the main refrain of ‘The Fallen Star’ is surprisingly weak, the dramatic performance of the vocals helps salvage the track just when it feels like the wheels are starting to wobble.
Ultimately, ‘Uprising of the Fallen’ is at once a bold and conservative record – whilst still being cloaked in an aura of spectral blasphemy, it is a more direct and pointed listen than the previous record. Whether it truly does enough to elevate it to the summit of a rather crowded end of the scene at this juncture remains to be seen – and it is true that there are a handful of patchy moments scattered about this dense opus – but it is by and large the work of men who truly know their craft.
(8/10 Frank Allain)