In common with their name, Aeternus seem to have been around forever. The lynchpin is Ares, who founded the band from Bergen in 1993 and has been the epicentre of a band, which has historical and current links with many of the key names in Norwegian extreme metal. The band itself has carved an impressive path between black and death metal to the point where their music can simply be described as atmospherically dark. My own personal experience of the band goes back to the “Ageless Void” tour in 2006. I knew their work but was knocked out by their energy and sheer professionalism both on and off stage.

As is the way of experienced bands, we’re brought into it gently. Dark and sinister tones are replaced by a typically melodic line but infected by Ares’s throaty raspings. There may be melody but by way of a reminder we are taken off course into a grey non-linear dark world. The pitiless tone seeps into “The Sword of Retribution”, the second track of the album. Ares and co use breaks to stop us in our tracks and take us into other withering fields of emptiness. A black metal rhythmic hymn, naturally of a Norwegian kind, stands behind the impressive creepy grey matter of “The Sword of Retribution”. I had the impression of being screwed further and further into the ground as I listened to the remorseless “Conjuring of the Gentiles”. It is done with power and instrumental virtuosity. The guitar weeps for us. Ares rasps. It’s a desperate but highly effective scene. “The Significance of Iblis” has deathly tones before slowing down and taking us into a wonderland of putridity. Do I detect a touch of Immortal on “How Opaque the Disguise of the Adversary”? Of all that I’d heard so far, it was the most spine-chilling. Folk-like sounds of olden times are evoked on the multi-layered “Boudica”. As with many Aeternus tracks, its structure takes us round the block and back. But at their heart is death, and none more so than the final track “’illa Mayyit”, which if I understand it correctly, makes reference to Muslim burial rites. In word and sound, this is the world of Aeternus.

“Heathen” is as solid as a rock and truly atmospheric. Aeternus enter our souls once more with their special brand of darkness.

(8/10 Andrew Doherty)