And so the sound of song birds bounced around the forests, the scent of verdant, leaf-strewn soils drifting high into the pristine woodland canopy just as…. The clawed hand of Satan ripped through the fabric of reality and a single, bellowing howl from the very mouth of eternal darkness scorched God’s creation to cinders… I’ve often wondered if there is any kind of consensus over what nihilistic black metal bands want to see from the closing moments of this brief, cosmic speck that we call humanity. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just best not to think about it too much except to say that this all makes for a perfect subject matter for the music. Nox Formulae, for example, weave their vibrant and dastardly spell over every inch of their sonic tapestry and there’s clearly only one purpose in that spell – to release ungodly powers on this sweet earth of ours. The last release, 2016’s The Hidden Paths to Black Ecstasy appeared with little fanfare but came drenched in ritualistic intent, the promise of eternal hell fire and a good deal of bitterly spat black magic. While no evolutionary step for black metal, this undoubtedly feels like the band has raised its game.

Drakon Darshan Satan toys deftly with the orthodox black metal formula, but one intoxicated with a similar brew as that served up by fellow countrymen Acrimonious, Serpent Noir and Acherontas. Punishing percussion and dense guitar work is laced with dynamic riffs that hint ever so slightly at melody while remaining firmly on the side of subtlety and even originality. Add to that a mesmerising triple vocal performance from Monkshood 333, Nightshade and Kurgasiaz – all as unidentified as the rest of the band (also made up of Mezkal on drums and Wolfsbane 1.1 on guitar). As with Black Ecstasy, it’s all slickly and venomously delivered while never straying from the path of consistent and constant black metal aggression that I think is usually referred to as ‘uncompromising’. Sound good so far?

But while its predecessor seemed to concentrate on the ritual nature of the release, Drakon Darshan really lets the music flow. From the first couple of minutes of intense opener Psychopath of NOX, Nox Formulae gives hints that there might well be something special in a similar way to Acrimonious’ Eleven Dragons (which I can hardly believe was released three years ago now… ). Insanely well used strings ratchet up the intensity part way through the track which ends with a heavily strung bassline that reverberates right through you. From there Nox Formulae pull out tricks old and new – the back beat intro to Ravens of Terror which winds up at breakneck speed; the addictive hook of The Black Stone of Satan; the tantalising, surging riffs of The Blood Oath of Thagirion and the insanely brilliant The Arrival of Noctifer – a thumping techno track which could have either outshone or ruined the album in the wrong hands. And that’s not even the end of the album. Even the occasional spoken word ritual seems acceptable within such a relentless and sumptuous black metal feast as this – and delivered in the right mix rather than dominating as it sometime is wont to do in other releases I’ve heard (this has grated on me a little in recent releases by the likes of Acherontas).

Nox Formulae have not rewritten the rules of black metal but Drakon is a rewarding listen in the first instance and more so on repeat. If you can follow the garbled riddle of the band’s mission as encrypted on the band’s various release material then I salute you – you are most likely an actual follower of the left hand path. For the rest of us, who feel its contentment enough that someone else is pouring their heart and soul into something unfathomable to deliver music, lyrics and aesthetics that make for such a package as this, then sit in and listen in wonder to the myriad voices and riffs tumbling out of Drakon Darshan Satan that put Nox Formulae on this year’s black metal albums to feast upon.

(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)