So here I am again, part three of what has turned out to be a trilogy of reviews for Yorkshire UKBM. One way or another Blood Countess, Sathamel and now this one man project of mastermind Leviathan have strong links so I think we can safely think of a neat and varied scene here.
So. Written In Torment. This is their third full length but despite having been on my radar since their debut, thanks to an Ave Noctum review of course, shamefully this is my first sit down.
Appropriately the opening song is entitled ‘Old Gods Of The North’ and spits out its cry for their return initially with a tumultuous attack that signals this is going to be some bestial assault – drums crash, the vocals scream and the riff piles in basic and brutal. And then the high melody comes in and a swell of keyboards slows things down, opens it up and the howl becomes an invocation. Lead and varied backing vocals add to the complexity, with some neat drum fills. It’s beautifully done, an almost Norse feel to it amplified by the lyrics (yup! I was sent lyrics too! Hurrah!) and the more you listen the more the tempo changes and little touches weave more coloured thread to the tapestry.
Hey, now that is a good start, yeah?
‘Benevolence, Defiled’ is a slower tune, twisting and turning guitar lines around piano before the slow and sombre keyboards rise. There’s a windswept feel, somehow, a touch of Fellwarden but with harsher words maybe. A rich guitar break of real touch takes this tune into higher realms before falling back to the bitter ending lyrics… Superb. Atmosphere, emotion, musicality; black metal.
By this point I think I’m beginning to get the hang of Written In Torment. Firstly it needs attention or the brutal attacks will knock you off beam and the glory, the Emperor-esque billowing melody, and the bleak intensity of the quiet passages will slip by you. ‘Magna Mortalitas’ being an exemplar – again with the dexterous and emotional lead work that rises out of the existing tunes rather than suddenly appear, the keyboards like storm clouds but the furious anger against Christianity coursing through the harsh passages to crush. Written In Torment indeed. ‘Unchain Your Mind’ on the other hand sounds very technical to begin, with scampering fretwork and choppy vocals characterising the sound. It settles back a little but this is a more skeletal, to the point attack. The title track, with it’s almost cathedral like intro and choral backing vocals is grim and desolate. Sedate and with progressive flourishes it reaches the end of its rope with a gnash of teeth and maybe a little regret.
I have in my mind placed the last two songs as a couplet. ‘Descent’ has an early nineties feel somehow, early Gehenna maybe, with trilling guitars and a feeling of spiralling down into the darkness beneath the waves. It has a turbulence, a feeling of you having no control and it really does sweep you along, and down, ever down. ‘Despair ‘ leads out of this but this is just majestic. This is the ending you want to an album. We have those deep, rich riffs, the keyboards folding over like a shroud for the final journey and an imperious kind of DSBM with again a little whisper of the Norse in the edges of the melodies and the turn of the lead breaks, but very English in some of the sounds; faint echoes of Fen and Winterfylleth beneath the harsh attack. It is a truly fitting end to a genuinely surprising album.
Having not heard previous albums, I have no sense of change or progression, only the now which in some ways is preferable as I have to judge it on its own merits alone. It is thoughtful in composition and approach, beautifully adept in performance and touch. The use of lead breaks is distinctive but never jarring, the vocals emotional and without quarter. The production excellent with bass lines coming through when fitting…
Oh yes this is a good one.
Pay attention to what’s on your doorstep people. The UK is doing unadulterated black metal so well at the moment and Written In Torment are well up there. Majestic.
Oh and PR companies take note. Having lyrics with promos is so good.