Ok, so oniric black metal from Italy then. Yes a strange descriptor and getting beneath the surface conceptually things are even denser as this band started out delving into the Sicilian town of Erice and going back to its interesting medieval history with the aim of recreating its “epicurean sensations and moods,” by means of their music. You can feel free to leave this at the door so to speak and just listen to the music or go and explore it in more detail helping you soak up the atmospheres within. Just listening to album you will find grand vistas of battle for sure, whether this takes you back to the first Punic War and the sacking of the place by the Carthaginians or not will not affect your enjoyment of that in the slightest. We can’t all be historians but this is one of the joys of extreme music that you certainly won’t find the depth of in other less meaningful genres and the throwaway stuff listened to by the populist herds.
Heruka started out by establishing this concept in 2001 with demo work ‘Doxa Epicurea,’ they then continued with 2005 EP ‘Leggenda’. The interesting thing about that is they have decided to re-record this work, translate lyrics to English and include the tracks as the first 6 of this 16 track album. I guess unless I had been told that I wouldn’t have noticed as the complete work forms and flows together seamlessly taking in the whole oniric concept as intended. Let’s get away from the heady stuff though and onto the actual music.
Be warned this starts like the clappers, no intro just a massive drum battery like a machine gun firing up. I had just pressed play and started walking away from the stereo with a cup of coffee, so sudden and startling was this I ended up wearing half the contents. The Marduk like drumming is formidable throughout and there is a vicious feel to the music that indeed stands triumphant and proud in execution. Another aspect that really stands out is the bass definition, the instrument is certainly not lost in the mix but meanders and grooves away thickly providing a nice solid backbone at times. Founding member Adranor was responsible for most the early material along with the departed Valdemor. I noted that he is also a member of industrial black metal act Throne Of Molok and the speed and velocity of the work here is certainly comparable. The vocals are savage and bloodthirsty but certainly not one dimensional and go through a gamut of emotions provided by ex Ars Macabra throat-slinger Nekrom and everyone involved here works in complete and precise controlled formation like an ancient army very much on the march to crush and devour all in its path. They may have dispensed with the intro at the beginning but some tracks get them with orchestral parts adding to the atmosphere and strange ghastly sounds that leave you wondering what on earth made them.
It was certainly appreciated getting a disc of this, as much for the lyrics as anything and reading along to the throaty roars unveils epic tales and really bring the music to life. The overall concept has obviously been painstakingly researched and the band have certainly accomplished what they set out to achieve during the near hours-worth of music. It’s far away from the Scandinavian sense of blackness having more to do with the warmer temperament of the Greeks another ancient civilisation whose battles are legendary and you really can breathe in and imbibe the sense of history as this romps away, cleaving murderously and getting your head banging along and your fist pumping in vitriol. Once the newer material starts there’s a very sudden part that is completely medieval in sound and really sticks out. I have to admit I found myself hungering for a bit more of it and found perhaps along with some backing chanting the band had more ideas that they were injecting into the newer material but the cut and thrust, speed and aggression is not lost in the slightest. Most of the tracks here are kept to a compact length never straying much above the 4 minute mark and I think this helps keep the pace and fervour constant. It has also brought me back to the album plenty of times since it arrived and each listen unveils a bit more. For once I wouldn’t pick out any track in particular, this is all good and should certainly be listened to in whole from beginning to end.
This is music for those who want to feel a sense of the past and explore tales of old; I could completely sell it short and say it is for fans of bands such as Rotting Christ and Imperium Dekadenz just to give you an idea and a sense of the atmospheres found within but I still feel that I have only scratched the surface of the ethos here. If this is onirism in a musical form though, one thing I can certainly say is that I definitely like it. Apparently the band are working on a split release and preparing for some live shows, I’ll certainly be keeping an ear out for them in the future.
(8/10 Pete Woods)