Ancient Moon may not be a name that leaps forth from the dark clutching a bloody sacrificial blade when one thinks of occult black metal. But Benedictus Diabolica is one of those albums, in a vast obsidian sea of polytheistic worship, that burrows into your brain and begins gnawing away at your subconscious. It’s inevitably going to keep coming back unbidden into your thoughts once you’ve given it a good few spins but putting your finger on the reason it keeps finding its way through to your speakers isn’t easy. On the face of it, there’s not much to distinguish the band – a name that you think you heard before but aren’t quite sure; three guys hiding their identities behind a veil of secrecy; occult-laden black metal with a knack for spinning an hypnotic dirge; and two extended tracks clocking in at around the 20 minute mark that will take more than one listen to get your head around – if you ever really do. Check, check, check.
There’s no other way of doing this than feet first and hoping that your attention isn’t going to wander too much before the band’s stealthily placed hooks snare your brain… First time round: hmmm…. Second: first tracks not too bad, definitely a bit of Drudkh in the opening minute or two .. third, fourth…. Hmmm. This is undoubtedly an excellent slab of calculatingly dark black metal. Probably nothing to convert those stained by non-belief, but a solid work all the same. The debate within you is going to be over whether the ragged elegy is perfectly crafted or just too drawn out of the album’s length to make this feel more like an extended EP than a full blown album with enough nooks and crannies to keep this from meandering too often into black metal coffee table music.
Because there are indeed leaves of gold blowing through those dark recesses and it’s not just Drudkh that comes calling back as the echoes of Benedictus Diabolica rattle through the cobwebbed avenues of your brain. The final closing minutes of that second track.. Is that the flute line from By The Path Of The Sun by Ukraine’s most controversial sons echoing from within the darkness…? Whatever call backs Ancient Moon are using, it’s all too easy to get lost in this. Rumbling ambience giving way to perfectly blended rasping vocals and cavernous black metal riffs; shrill tremolo guitars blending into the horizon; gradually building cacophonies exploding in such carefully controlled chaos we can only assume there is divine influence at work.
The unfolding surge of the first track shimmers with reverberating occult salutations while the second track gets stuck right into swirling black metal art – breaking only to invade your conscience with the obligatory eerie ambient break. And while the whole is glorious to experience, it’s quite difficult not to drift in an out of the band’s thrall as you travel along. What’s more, while Ancient Moon’s essence is a fine thing, the moment you try to dissect it, it seems to slip through your fingers.
The immersion is at times total and at others you are released spinning off into the void to consider the nagging questions of the day, like, is there something else I need to be doing, like taking the bins out or popping to the Co-op to get some more bog roll? Well, yes – do both. Ancient Moon doesn’t stop you going about your business. The pulsing repetitiveness is ideal background music for the daily grind. There are few highs (although the final chant-infused minutes with the echoes of Ukrainian hills sliding this way and that through your subconsciousness is certainly one of the most obvious ones). And few lows, come to that. Just the constant satanic benediction of Ancient Moon’s latest platter to see you through the next three quarters of an hour with beautiful, grinding, monotony. Black metal coffee table music, yes – assuming your coffee table is made of freshly flayed bones and goat hide.
(7.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)