Though obviously open to interpretation in modern times Homeric descriptions of a hecatomb, a hundred head slaughter in sacrifice to one of four most virtuous Greek gods, was not wasteful spectacle as it might sound. Rather it was a grand feast and chorale of worship that could last for days. The hundred cattle (bulls) beheaded, skinned and roasted would rouse worshipers as they gorged, drank and sang praises. A great slaughter of virile cattle would have been an immeasurable cost in the name of religion and provided an enormous bloody spectacle performed with rites to Zeus at the conclusion of each Greek Olympiad. And what better spectacle to match such historical bloodshed, and religious furor, than the return of Swedish black metal project Funeral Mist after nearly a decade’s wait.
Barely eighteen years old at the project’s inception Arioch (Hans Rostén) sought the darkest rhythms of Scandinavian black metal’s prophetic second wave in his band’s mystifying earliest demos alongside musicians who would exit to contribute to releases from Dark Funeral and Thyrfing afterwards. I don’t enter the picture as a fan until the third demo as I was only personally familiar with the Mark II era of Funeral Mist‘s discography from 1996 until 2003 that featured Necromorbus (In Aeternum, Katharsis) on drums. Between the ‘Havoc’ demo (1996) and the classic ‘Devilry’ EP (1998) Funeral Mist made a permanent place on the shelves of Swedish black metal enthusiasts but it would be ‘Salvation’ (2003), and Arioch‘s entrance into Marduk in 2004 to replace Legion, where greater notice gathered.
Of course everything that Marduk were fumbling with at the time Funeral Mist were excelling at, and through some difficulties the manic whipping thrust of ‘Salvation’ arrived as an explosion of claustrophobic terror and brilliantly psychotic braying. Through subtle Gregorian chants and snake-like tremolo riffs Funeral Mist‘s official debut was immediately seen as a high watermark above era of ‘norsecore’ where bland imitators within Scandinavian black metal thrived due to the inconceivable popularity of a handful of albums devoid of originality. In this sense Arioch (now aka Mortuus) provided salvation for the next decade of Marduk releases, lending a great power to ‘Rom 5:12’ and ‘Wormwood’ alike.
In the handful of years in between releases I’d lost interest in either project as black metal had no shortage of incredible innovation and peak orthodoxy without a Funeral Mist release. By the time I’d heard ‘Marantha’ slightly out of context in 2011 it was still a rush of impressive guitar work but it’s mid-to-slow paced sections created some low points with “Blessed Curse” and “White Stone” that never compelled me to return. Here on ‘Hekatomb’ nine years later Arioch again pairs with Marduk band mates Devo for production and ex-drummer Lars Broddesson for a course correction upon the ideas explored on ‘Marantha’ and some glorious nods to ‘Devilry’ and ‘Salvation’ throughout.
The deeply mournful history of Swedish black metal guitar is still inherent a characteristic of Arioch‘s writing but with each release he grows more diabolical and cruel with his delivery. From the flowering precision and shuddering trills of “In Nomine Domini” to the ringing orthodoxy of “Cockatrice” and the early Falkenbach-meets-Darkthrone plod of “Naught But Death”, ‘Hekatomb’ wields it’s power with precision and admirable variation beyond previous releases. Helped along greatly by extensive breaks in-between the inhumanly blasted style drum patterns typical of 2000’s era Swedish black metal Arioch has arranged a tracklist with distinct peaks and points of rest where his performances undoubtedly set in the cyclone of the storm and it all appears to move by his command.
Though I have no doubt ‘Hekatomb’ will win leagues of new fans, more importantly it provides material that was well worth the extensive wait and gives sanctuary for fans like myself who no longer have interest in Marduk‘s musical direction. The only ‘typical’ tracks here, “Hosanna” and “Within the Without”, come one after the other to pad out the exit and while they provide nothing stand-out, the energy of the performances never falters. Where I will complain is the finale of “Pallor Mortis” a mush of thrown together riffs, samples and loose ends of no consequence. The real joyous darkness felt leads me to recommend preview of “Cockatrice”, “In Nomine Domini” and “Metamorphosis”.
|Released||June 15, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on Norma Evangelium Diaboli’s Bandcamp!||Follow Funeral Mist on Facebook|
A sword brandished thrice. 4.0/5.0
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