Weapon in hand, flick knives flashing, petrol bombs flying … the violence depicted in the lyrics of Advent Sorrow feels at times all too real. ‘Mass graves… superior men and women driven by hate for weakness… The feeling we get is wonderful. The sound of silence for us all’. Hmmm… On the face of it all this rabid violence fits with the venom-spat lyrics and driving, mid-paced black metal grinding forwards on the entrails of the dead. The band began its existence as a fairly unremarkable Dimmu Borgir-a-like symphonic black metal band, changed tack with their last album to a far more convincing depressive black metal outfit and have since, with even more malicious intent, come skulking back slashing and thrusting with a shiny new formula that is Kali Yuga Crown. First came the independent release and now a full release on Werewolf – home for a number of bands that have been so plagued with questions about their socio-political persuasions and general purpose they make many other black metal bands look like paragons.

Suffice to say, musically, this is even more impressive than the last. Single-minded, exhilarating and boiling with simmering rage. Tracks like Verminblood and Spearhead still contain the melodic groove and depressive edge of the band’s early efforts but the hypnotic, martial stomping of Wolf & Weapon and the cavernous triumph of Caesar makes it clear the band is now firmly in newly chartered waters. Yes, Aussies Advent Sorrow have found new dimensions to their sound that fans of Dissection or latter day Marduk may well appreciate. Kali – the Hindu demon (and quite separate to the goddess of the same name) – is a thing of evil. Kali Yuga is an age of discord and strife – rulers become despotic, spiritualism falls out of favour, drink and drugs are in favour with the masses, migration escalates as people seek lands to find more food (you can see where this is going right?)… and, yup, it’s here now and it’s all going to last another few thousand years. Or so the theory goes.

Advent Sorrow’s call to arms spans the length of the album and it is relentless. Their own particular brand of black metal splicing sand-blasted vocals and seething tremolo follows suit and in many ways is the perfect accompaniment to this rousing call to nations to weaponise human kind (‘superior men and women’, I should add) against one another as ‘speartips’ and to ‘trample a thousand people’. The music might feel a bit one dimensional at times to those who prefer substance over atmosphere and style but this is done with passion. Quite what that passion is, is perhaps where those nagging doubts emerge about Advent Sorrow’s steely conviction.

The band obviously wants to make an impact: the previous album’s cover was clearly striving for that and this one too (using a photograph of a masked Ukrainian protester holding an unlit Molotov cocktail) screams naked, real-world aggression. It’s the type of vitriol that skips over the line (from the usual nihilistic underground opposition against the crushing weight of global forces, religious and otherwise, that threatens to wipe out individual thought and communities) and into street level and anger and violence directed at ‘the weak’. And in the context of their chosen label (decide for yourself about the ideology behind Satanic Warmaster – band of Lauri Penttilä, Werewolf’s label boss, but there’s significantly less doubt about the themes that drive label mates Goatmoon and, formerly of the label’s Satanic parish, Eisenwinter) there are times that it’s not so easy to dismiss some of the lyrics as mere allegory or social comment. Amid lots of dark stuff about war and general thuggery, Advent Sorrow vomit forth bite-sized images of the apocalypse and holocaust on tracks like Verminblood (‘See now, we slaughter the wounded and the weeping vermin’), Majesty Enshrined (‘Xyklon fumes fill the place. Genocide of the highest degree…. … A stench that consumes grace. You are flesh without bone. The best thing you could do is rot and feed the worms’) and Spearhead (‘claim this new world in ashes. Superior men and women… Driven by hate for weakness’). It’s unpleasant as well as being hackneyed and clumsy even within the boundaries of underground black metal.

Now, I ain’t no shrinking violet. But forgive me for maintaining my own sense of when the whiff of kerosene threatens to drift too close to the bonfire. Does Advent Sorrow want to deliberately court controversy? Well that’s a silly question. But call me a snowflake, call me whatever you like. There’s something powerful here musically, at least in parts. But after the year we’ve had in this country of ours, with unpleasant folk saying increasingly unpleasant things and kicking around populist nonsense of the type I once thought had been consigned to the last century, my battered tolerance and liberal conscience is being stretched to its limits and somehow this isn’t helping.

(8/10 (for the music) Reverend Darkstanley)
(0/10 for general unpleasantness)