With 2010s For Mircalla seemingly destined to be a one-off album for Briton Rites, it’s quite a surprise to see the band unleash a second full-length ten years later. Occulte Fantastique (Echoes Of Crom Records) wastes no time confirming that the group has remained faithful to their Traditional Doom Metal style. Guitarist Howie Bentley’s riffs are as beefy as ever while the prolific Phil Swanson’s vocal performance consists of the tried-and-true Satanic themes delivered in a sneer somewhere between Ozzy and Pagan Altar’s Terry Jones.
Of course, there have been some adjustments to the Briton Rites formula with the passage of time. The vocals do show some signs of age as Swanson’s weathered demeanor is right in line with his performance on the most recent Vestal Claret outing. The bass playing is also less prominent than it was before, an odd move considering that the band actually has a proper bass player with John Leeson. Fortunately, Bentley’s guitar playing remains their strongest asset, exerting a grainy but powerful tone and riffs that have more hustle behind them than many of their peers.
The album also stays true to the upbeat songwriting that defined its predecessor and enhances it even further with slightly more streamlined track lengths.‘The Masque Of Satan’ and ‘My Will Be Thine’ start the album off with a series of rock-solid chugs and hard-hitting drum beats, the latter featuring a particularly potent hook. ‘In Hell I Will Rule’ is another fun track that dares to reach the speed of Bentley’s main band Cauldron Born while ‘The Wizard’s Pipe’ is set to a tight mid-tempo groove. On the flip side, the closing title track takes the album to its doomiest depths with an appropriately dark series of Sabbath-approved dirges.
While Occulte Fantastique falls a little short of the legendary quality on For Mircalla, it makes for a great display of Doom Metal on its own merits. It’s great to see Briton Rites remain so dedicated to their style as a healthy mix of strong riffs and concise structures greatly make up for the somewhat diminished atmosphere. Any Traditional Doom fan who thinks they’ve got their top album picks figured out for 2020 had better check this one out before making any serious commitments. It may be a very last-minute release but it’s more than worthy of your time.
8 / 10