Four and a half years ago Svart Records released a saucy devil of an EP named Ritual Rites, the first offering from US/Europe hybrid The Sabbathian. Heavy anticipation followed: in fact, everything was expected apart from the resounding silence that followed.
In the passing time the trio slimmed to a duo, shedding Altar Blood’s Joey Downs while retaining the vastly experienced and much-traveled Chad Davis. Possibly as a result of this change, debut album Latum Alterum (Svart Records) is a darker, harder beast than that early EP – and even better for it. From the haunting refrain of opening track ‘Requiem’ there’s an element of tragedy bleeding from every pore, and the siren calls of the ensuing ‘The Brightest Light’ reinforce this. The effect, however, is the clashing of Anette Uvaas Guldbrandsen’s layered and sampled harmonies against Davis’ crashing riff, slow yet given a tinge of darkness by the chilling crackle of the production. Power sparkles with beauty and doleful melancholy in a perfect ménage à trois, and that’s a trend coursing through the album.
‘Liti Kjersti’ marries Myrkur’s fragile, hypnotic Black Metal with Dio’s drama, the wedding officiated by the sinister incantations of Blood Ceremony: Guldbrandsen’s falsetto retaining a profound resonance. Mighty centrepiece ‘Head Of A Traitor’ sees eerie chimes explode into a crushing wall of sound, the rhythm dictating an almost identical pace and pattern to that of the previous tracks yet somehow creating a singular identity. The delectable spectral harmonies add to the unnerving swell, a huge riff and drum blast hidden in the mix yet, bizarrely, all the more noticeable for it.
For the first time, that drum template seems to alter slightly for the more uptempo ‘One Night Of Cruelty’, still maintaining a steady pace and the trickle of warm blood across some truly malevolent words which Guldbrandsen delivers with stunning power, coating them in dank-smelling honey. Standout track ‘Embrace The Dark’ sounds like a spoonful of Pallbearer added into the mix and increasing the spooky overtones with inventive chord progressions that chill the soul whilst stirring the blood.
This enthralling album closes with a return to maudlin tones in the form of ‘Evig Hvile – Libera Me…’, an outro by description but with an emotive grace that defies such a role. It’s been a while but Latum Alterum has most definitely been worth the wait, reinventing The Sabbathian and granting them pathos in the process.
8 / 10