After four long years of waiting, the Finnish black metal troubadours Baptism have finally regaled us with a new album; V: The Devil’s Fire (Season of Mist). Their newest effort follows their 2012 release As Darkness Enters.
From the very start of the record, the production is a pleasant surprise. Whereas most black metal bands seek the “trve kvlt” sound of low-fi recordings, this albums benefits from a very crisp and clear sound. Every instrument has its own place in the aural painting and the vocals are nestled in quite nicely.
Next to the tremolo-picked chords, the blast beats in triplets, and the Abbath-like growling vocals – all must-haves in black metal – Baptism also ventures into very melodic (almost post-black) sections with original chord progressions, which give you a moment to breathe between the old school black pummeling. The song ‘The Sacrament Of Blood And Ash’ introduces the melodic meandering to the listener quite well, with the help of the death/doom outfit Swallow the Sun’s vocalist Mikko Kotamäki. Mr. Kotamäki’s haunting vocals compliment the first gloomy respite of the album very nicely. His vocals complete the gloomy, weary, almost desperate atmosphere of the instrumentation.
Moving ever further down the line, ‘Abyss’ and ‘Cold Eternity’ further explore another venture away from the traditional black metal sound. Earlier on in the album Baptism already hints at a Pagan influence in their songwriting, which comes to true fruition in these two songs. The arrangements, very reminiscent of England’s Winterfylleth, project vivid mental images of veteran pagan warriors contemplating their battles and losses, and the feeling one gets when aimlessly wandering around ancient forests.
All in all, Baptisms fifth studio release is a solid black metal bastion, with a fresh twist. Purists might argue that it is not “black enough”, but for a casual of curious listener it is a very solid record. Most importantly, the reason I did not single out any band member in particular, is that the band sounds like a unified front. A solid record by a solid band.
SAM C.A. VAN DE LEUR
[amazon asin=B01G890XZ8&template=iframe image1]