When you think of Spain, you probably think of sun-drenched beaches, paella and sangria rather than oppressive death metal, but that may be about to change as Barcelona’s Atrexial well and truly stick their head above the parapet,

Having completed their line up in May with Belegurth on Bass, they unleash their debut full length upon us, opening with ‘Enthronement’, a brooding intro creating a foreboding atmosphere leading into ‘The Hideous Veil of Innocence’ which is simply a dense and pummelling wall blackened death metal.

Without stopping for breath, ’Under the Scourge of Lamashtu’ is equally uncompromising, adeptly merging of an impenetrable facade of noise with accessible melody.

We are given our first passage from the Hellraiser franchise with Pinhead’s chilling diatribe with Joey warning that he will reap her slowly as the intro to ‘Catharsis Through Torment’. There is an increased level of aggression to start with, but the pace slows mid song with barely audible screams in the background before the pace builds again leading to its barraging finale.

The theme of claustrophobic death metal continues with ‘Unmerciful Imperial Majesty’ before we are given respite in the form of ‘Illuminatur’s’ acoustic intro before building back to an aural monolithic slab, fading out with the sound of an angelic choir.

One of the things setting Atrexial above many of their peers is the intelligent use of changes in pace with slower passages, and melodic interludes being integral to the track, rather than an afterthought, and this works exceptionally well.

Pinhead returns during the intro to ‘The Ominous Silence’ with an excerpt from ‘Hellraiser: Hellseeker’ (“welcome to the worst nightmare of all…..reality”). A haunting rhythm serves as a skeleton upon which vitriolic vocals and blasting drums are hung, before morphing into a gentle melodic outro.

Further respite is given through ‘Ascension’, an instrumental piano piece which is relatively upbeat, but maintains an appropriately sinister air.

We return to the former level of intensity with ‘Shadows of the Nephilim Throne’ and ‘Trinity’ before the title track ‘Souverain’ gives us our final encounter with Pinhead….. “There is a place at my right hand for you Monroe. For a man of your tastes. Tastes I can help you too indulge. Flesh. Power. Dominion” which is an appropriate intro for this slab of demonic death metal

Things are brought to a close with ‘Eternal’ a haunting piano outro.

This is an outstanding debut album, uncompromising, complex and melodic. It is delivered with precision and ferocity and has the impact of a sledgehammer to the skull.

This will almost certainly be in my top 10 albums for the year.

Let’s hope for a UK date in the near future……

(9/10 Andy Pountney)