To say that I was impressed with Misanthropic Rage’s debut album “Gates No Longer Shut” (2016) is an understatement. Merging and transcending styles, while buttonholed as “avant-garde progressive black metal”, it was basically Polish metal with atmospheres and attitude. Like a child in a sweet shop, I was therefore very pleased to have their second album “Igne Natura Renovatur Integra” in my hands.

As “Gates No Longer Shut” started fierily, so “Igne Natura Renovatur Integra” starts darkly and menacingly. It could never last, and an explosion of atmospheric black metal anger erupts. Leaden heavy and in violent fashion it continues. The direction changes again and it is no less menacing or ghastly in its outlook. We’re only 7 minutes in and it’s like we’ve been exposed to several faces of a black and thunderous existence. From “Call All Your Angels“ we move swiftly to the chunky and lofty tones of Bliźni Mói (My Neighbour). Neighbourly it is not. Misanthropic Rage imperially create an expansive sound, which has threat and murder at its harsh centre. This is stirring stuff indeed. A distant metal choir shouts out to reinforce the ever electric atmosphere. “Become a God-Man” is pure blackened death of a Polish nature. Walls reverberate to the heavy but magnetic sound and the echoes. It’s harsh, black drama.

A strange feature of this album is the vocals. In amongst all this black mayhem a lone, vulnerable voice appears to go with vocals of the harsher variety. I’m not sure it works and in fact it’s a distraction as there’s enough going on without it. The title track, represented as I.N.R.I, starts in an array of flamboyant guitar and spoken word, before it cranks up and takes us into harsher territory, characterised by war, explosiveness and more lush guitar work. It’s a majestic piece. The story continues in its harsh, progressive way, finding melodies in utterly dark chasms. The drama has a symphonic air about it. There are programmes but the core is from the pungent drum, harsh expanse and deep structures. “The Agony of Breath” breaks off and we find ourselves in a murderous wonderland. “In Embrace of Sanity” is like a short compendium of Misanthropic Rage, combining unremitting heaviness with despair. Menace is then brought back to the surface as “The Truth Shall Be Told” wends its weird way through our psyche. The strange vocalist philosophises alternately with the ferocious voice. Like the first track “Call All Your Angels”, it’s like a compelling story of misanthropy and pessimism, backed up by a mix of furious and sinister instrumentals.

“Igne Natura Renovatur Integra” is as powerful as its predecessor and left me gasping for breath as it finds infinite ways of plumbing the depths. I’d say it less variety and imagination, while not lacking in either, than “Gates” but it is considerably darker. Take your pick.

(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)