What a delightful album title, fair warms the cockles and caresses the soul. Well at least someone looking to buy a loved one a present this festering season can’t be excused for making a mistake and it could be given to send a message. Mind you I would be more than happy to be gifted with this. Anyway before I get too distracted you may well remember this Dutch lot from their first couple of albums when they were released on fledging UK label Cacophonous Records along with the likes of Sigh, Cradle Of Filth, 13 Candles and Bal-Sagoth. They have been around and maturing since that early cheesy vampire artwork of old and are now on studio album number eight but if you have forgotten them since then, you are excused as there has been a gap of ten years since last album ‘Warfare Machines.’

Led by founding member Marco Kehren through thick and thin he was joined by ex-Bethlehem comrade and drummer Steve Wolz in 2002 and this album also utilises keyboards from Markus Stock of Empyrium and The Vision Bleak. On first pressing play and encountering the violent claws of these dinosaurs I at first wondered if I had accidently put on something from another flying Dutchman namely Mories Of Gnaw Their Tongues etc, such is the spiteful and embittered tumult of first track ‘Life Taker.’ Yep no prisoners here, this is as savage as one could expect from its descriptive title. Battering straight in it’s a caustic miasma of crunching drums and coarse harrowing vocals the latter incredibly forceful and loud in the mix. Getting to grips with these may well be the challenging point as they come at you in a merciless and raucous fashion that is a little unsavoury and hard to digest. If you accept that challenge all is well as they spit, snarl and swear their way through the album like an indignant child having a meltdown. The track stops very suddenly and belts back in after an effective pause, bells chime and the doomy blackness swirls away with the ghoulish graveyard atmosphere spreading dread and terror. Life is taken and the dead are feasting on flesh. Bethlehem are a good reference point as this is draped with their harrowing and necrotic sound, which takes on a much more moribund flow by next track ‘For This I Silence You’ A funereal dirge cloaked in nihilism and misanthropy, the keyboards help breathe the very essence of death into things and it is sorrowful musically but full of revulsion as far as the vocals are concerned. Suddenly chugging away the pace picks up and things romp off, the crows no doubt watching over this violent murder waiting to pick at its carrion. Depressive and suicidal melodies twist around that voice which has become even more strident and obtusely challenging by ‘The Weak Have Taken the Earth.’ Beauty and beastliness are measured with a feel of neo-romanticism from the keyboards and vampiric bloody gurgles are summoned from the throat; this is dark and definitely diseased.

I am sure there is some gorgeous poeticism to the lyrics, apart from the occasional spat out cuss it’s hard to make sense of them. I would especially love to see the words for ‘Buried Under the Frangipanis’ sounding like a long forgotten Poe story. These flowers wither and wilt under the weight of this doomy interment and one feels like an observer witnessing such a nefarious crime as some strings and piano gently entwine around the vocal horror; perfect! Even the horse (and yes we are definitely in grim bygone times here) used to cart the body off lies dead according to the next number, insects and animals are going to dine so well here. Eldritch and horrible atmosphere is skilfully employed and this is like reading a great old horror story, whilst snorting ether under a ghostly gas-lamp. The Words, “Your time is up” are clearly heard and a shiver goes right down the spine. I am almost afeared to turn further pages of these grizzly odes but turn I must as it’s a potboiler that deserves reading to the end in search of deliverance. I trawl through ‘Dusk’ which is melody rich in a decaying Xasthur sense, black doom darkly descends and the creatures of the night seep from hiding places and violently surge to gather as the living lock themselves up, draw the curtains and pray they will see another dawn. If they don’t, well they have no salvation as we are told by the penultimate chapter that is ‘There Is No Eden.’ As for the ending, well be prepared like the album for it to follow you all the way to the tomb.

This is an unexpected and excellent work to draw the year to an end, one of ghastly ghoulish, graveyard art and one whose hand I am glad to have shaken before fleeing for my very soul. May the gods protect us all.

(8/10 Pete Woods)