Extreme Metal is a funny term, much like Viking Metal and Alternative Metal it is a bit of a non-genre. By that I mean that it has no real annotations pointing to distinct features. Death Metal, Black Metal or even some Thrash could be considered Extreme Metal but then they already have their own genres, so is Extreme Metal more of a blanket term? For me yes and no, one example of an Extreme Metal band that springs to mind is Cradle Of Filth. Whilst they latch onto their early Blackened roots they employ elements of Symphonic and Gothic Metal in equal measure which in turn creates a body of sound that can only be described as Extreme Metal.
Treading these genre-defying tracks since their inception in 1995 are Hecate Enthroned. In a similar vein to Cradle Of Filth these UK based extremists have melded together a plethora of influences and garnered themselves a niche in the UK Metal scene. I often look at Hecate Enthroned as a big name in the UK underground they seem to twist and turn popping up at various festivals and shows to remind us they are still here. Their blend of Symphonic Blackened Death Metal that transcends into Extreme Metal has made albums like The Slaughter Of Innocence, A Requiem For The Mighty and Dark Requiems… And Unsilent Massacre stand out. Yet as time progresses are Hecate Enthroned still able to bend the rules of Metal? Can their 2019 release through M-Theory Audio entitled Embrace Of The Godless Aeon shatter our preconceived notions of Extreme Metal once again.
The Symphonic edge becomes immediately prominent in the opening instrumental Ascension, and for once I actually commend this. In these kinds of releases where epic imagery is key these building progressive sections help with anticipation. As soon as we are thrown into the unending pits of destruction we meet Revelations In The Autumn Flame a Melodic yet thoroughly Extreme track that exudes Blackened guitars, Symphonic elements and a good range of unclean vocals that spread themselves across both Black and Death Metal. Goddess Of Dark Misfits then comes to bolster our opinions on this release, the first of several more lengthy tracks that has some delicate operatic vocals that bring the release to life, playing on themes from the likes of the aforementioned Cradle Of Filth and equally Dimmu Borgir, particularly in the keyboards.
What follows in the later half of the album is reasonably similar. There is an abundance of more drawn out Symphonic epics which in some way gives us more of what we want. Big bombastic sonic blasts of orchestrated morbid delights, arena rock for the diseased. But is Embrace Of The Godless Aeon a re-playable masterpiece or merely a light indulgence to appease the epic senses? I would likely place it somewhere in the middle, whilst the album lacks a great deal of staying power it is thoroughly enjoyable and as far as I’m concerned leagues above a lot of more Symphonic Metal out there. The closing portion of the album, namely Erebus And Terror is a great way to round things off. Full of fire, Melodic passages, keyboards, Progressive elements and most importantly destruction it is a fabulous end that brings that leaves an imprint upon the mind.
I often find the vast majority of Symphonic Metal rather laborious, the bigger names tend to be so for a reason I find. Thus I am not often overly captivated by the more underground as far as this genre goes, I think for the most part this is due to productions values. Whilst there is a certain charm to more under produced orchestral tinged music, for example Dungeon Synth I think when combined with Metal the money often talks. That is not to devalue either end of the spectrum but rather to attest that with more tools in the studio a band can achieve greater goals. Yet even this is not always the case, see Behemoth’s latest offering for evidence of that. Hecate Enthroned find themselves in a happy medium that seats their music atop an underground throne and this album is no different.
(7/10 George Caley)