On first getting this third album by Spanish black metallers Balmog I mistakenly scribbled down the name Balrog (a sort of fire demon from the Lord Of The Rings by Tolkien) such is my love of the Middle Earth saga only to realise my mistake when trying to investigate the band further. Still my error enabled me to check out a handful of actual bands called Balrog with partial success revealing some decent outfits, much like this blasphemic Spanish band who take the core essentials of black metal’s glacial heart to produce a truly bone brittling assault.
The short but savage intro piece leads the album down a perilous blackened avenue that unfurls into “Eating The Descendant” with its anarchic and barbaric sonic violation. Like black metal from two plus decades ago the songs weave unremitting perniciousness with well punctuated slower phases that make the album burrow into your soul with varying levels of corrosiveness. The theatrical vocals add considerable dexterity especially when the songs slow down for more mournful and sinister sequences and it is this variation that makes “Vacvvm” such a captivating listen.
“Hodegetria” has a ghoulish approach with apparitional vocal elements lingering like a distant voice on a howling winter night before escalating the tempo substantially, yet retaining that sense of foreboding dread on the riffing style. Drama pours from this album as “Vigil Of The Blinds” shifts the pace into a blackened tapestry of macabre aura and pervasive terror, but without the need for blasts preferring to maintain a slower approach initially. The change in speed is immense as the drumming escalates towards a deluge of intermittent double bass that adds substantial density. The last phase of this album has three longer songs that begins with “Come To The Pulpit” which has a gruesome atmosphere rendered by the eerie guitar hook and that slower tempo I have mentioned previously. The incremental changes in speed are excellent, powering the song with varying levels of inertia and leads sublimely into “Gignesthai” which has a funereal pace, sloth like with backing low pitch monastic chant vocals. The song has a gruelling ethos as the stricken riffing is peppered with sporadic blast workouts that divide the song into gelid slabs of agonised sonic trauma.
Concluding the trio of songs at the end of the album is “…Sed Semper Vivit Occisus” which appears to bookend with the intro piece, also in Latin, though my ability to translate the phrases yielded mixed results so I will refrain from attempting here. This closing track has an unrepentant malevolence generated by the initial velocity of the song. Coupled to that malevolence is a spectral riffing structure that seems to mingle with the speed like a phantom producing a menacing affront especially when the song reduces its speed momentarily. I love the riff changes in this song especially the one about a third way in which has an epic quality linked to a soft clean vocal narration that seeps in. As the song develops it shaves off the guitar briefly to leave an echoing drum pattern that eventually yields for another piercing riff that carries the song to its majestic finale.
Like any purist of any extreme metal genre, some would say it is difficult to recreate the aura, danger and outright terror that black metal had in the early 90s but this band is very close with their third album; it has a malfeasance and musicality intrinsically cemented into the song writing producing eight ice shard compositions of pristine potency.
(9/10 Martin Harris)