Saqra’s Cult – The 9th King

Sometimes Black Metal is just a mess of clichés – unreadable spiky fonts, unhinged teens in corpsepaint, blizzards… Yet Belgians Saqra’s Cult treads a different path. As their new EP, The 9th King (Amor Fati Productions), demonstrates, you can still breathe life into the old werewolf. In this case, the band draws deep from the Incan pagan heritage of their guitarist, and some strong yet original Black Metal results.

First up, the title track makes its presence known with some rather creepy wails, before erupting into the sort of Black Metal vivacity we haven’t heard for a while. And yet there is more – the subtle melodies show off a varied song that doesn’t so much has a hook as a whole bushel of them.

Next up: ‘Endless Devotion’. Less varied but still vicious and curiously melodic, this song has a bounding pace it never lets up. What makes it stand out, however, is a lurking, eerie vibe lurking under the extremity, in the best Black Metal traditions.

Track three, the luridly titled ‘Legends Of Pururaucas’ also stands out thanks to a distinctly distorted guitar riff. It’s like someone tried to ape the unearthly warble of a Theremin via the medium of Black Metal guitars. This, alongside a sudden lurch into operatics by the vocalist, helps an otherwise workmanlike track stand out.

Finally, ‘Last Denial’ draws elements from the other songs and adds some of its own epic shredding to great effect. For all this, it also has its own charisma, force and presence, and so the EP ends on a satisfyingly high note, if not quite one that’s as dazzling as how it started.

Nonetheless, if you’re looking for Black Metal that’s fresh, evil and yet still original, The 9th King is a worthy prospect. No llamas or alpacas included.

7 / 10

ALEXANDER HAY