By pure coincidence, on the day I was given this album for review, I was wearing an Acârash shirt so it’s fair to say that I had been impressed by their debut album and a storming previous live encounter.

So, with high hopes I cranked up the volume and pressed play on the Oslo group’s sophomore release. A series of ominous, measured riffs are soon joined by growled, spoken vocals as the track builds into a monolithic slab of blackened doom. The sound is similar to that on the debut ‘In Chaos Becrowned’ and manages to sound murky while staying crisp in its production. The atmosphere changes for ‘Satanic Obsession’ initially sounding more akin to occult rock (perhaps not surprising give the title) before it builds to galloping rhythms more akin to black n’ roll. A short brief solo heralds the arrival of ‘Desecrate. Liberate’ with its hard rock feel before it settles into a blackened doom groove with pulsating rhythms and low end vocals. We lurch back towards 70s occult rock on ‘Goat, Skull, Ritual Fire’ with the chorus being repetitively chanted, almost ceremoniously. Let’s be clear here, although I find myself talking about hard rock and 70s riffing, this is all effortlessly woven with icy black metal nastiness – This is not the latest Ghost album! ‘Below Ceremonial’ sees an ominous guitar intro building into a pulsating rhythm alongside and more ritualistic vocals, perhaps bringing to mind Samael.

The back end of the album sees ‘Three Knives’ creating a sinister ambience with heavyweight riffs as the building blocks before ‘Steel Hunter’ leans back towards occult rock with prominent guitar grooves and black metal vocals. The album is brought to a close by ‘Red Stone Betrayal’ which delivers a solid slab of blackened doom and nicely pulls things together.

This album is in some ways very straight forward relying on pulsating rhythms rather than overly convoluted structures but in other ways it is complex, exploring several genres and effortlessly alternating between occult rock and blackened doom, with a healthy dose of cold black metal thrown in for good measure. At times I found myself thinking of fellow Oslovians Sarke and Khold, as well as perhaps Darkthrone, Immortal and, as mentioned, Samael.

This is not as aggressive as many black metal releases and is more sinister than malevolent but it is undoubtedly a weighty tome which grows with each listen. The doom end of the spectrum is not usually my cup of tea, but this release is so much more than ‘blackened doom’ and is well worth a listen if you like your music heavy.

(7.5/10 Andy Pountney)