Righteously indignant enlightenment pours from the apeiron of blackened death metal inspiration as so many occult educated masters of riffing heavy metal darkness create the least subtle forms of theurgy known to man; It happens so often in today’s era that it becomes easy to overlook and underappreciate the depth of each ritual. So thriving is the outlet for this alchemical goal of transformation and invocation that it begins to read as fictive ‘genre’ no less curious than typical convoluted high fantasy. Without a rudimentary interest in various occult literature and belief systems the value of this subject matter is effective as little more than mystique and ornate symbolism. When faced with the stunning obscure art and musclebound blackened death of a band like Lucifericon that surface level allure becomes a sort of glowing, romantic darkness; A siren towards occultism’s camerae obscurae where each depth explored offers some new and challenging lick of the black flame. Therein lies the ironclad appeal of an album like ‘Al-Khem-Me’ where I may not understand the deeper meaning of its overall theurgistic statement and symbolism but the occult black/death metal they compose is undeniably awe-inspiring.
Should there be guilt attached to the listener’s pleasurable ignorance when an artist packs so much vital meaning into a piece and leaves it open to interpretation? I would argue that any motivation for education (period) and delving deeper into the meaning of art is going to be halfway masturbatory regardless of intent; Whatever the average mind absorbs they urinate away in their sleep. When it comes to traditional death metal it is the riffs and guitar-based personality that creates timeless works yet with occult black/death metal it is the atmosphere, art, and esoteric symbolism that create equal points of interest. The riff doesn’t fall off in importance but rather takes on a grand chorale-esque quality within movement and dynamic bending swathes rather than targeted post-80’s death/thrash. This is where Lucifericon stands out, actually, as they’ve found a balance between the enormity of occult death metal’s atmospheric value and references to classic black and death metal riff styles.
Formed in 2009 in the small southern Netherlands town of Bladel, Lucifericon was conceived between members of lost-in-time demo only death metal group Sun’s Blood, the drummer from death/thrashers Excision, and Alex Verhoeven, the Mark II second guitarist for Pentacle since the early 2000’s. The goal was clearly atmospheric death metal and they’d almost figured it out on the ‘The Occult Waters’ (2012) EP but the performances were choppy and the compositions less confident than they would be on the breakthrough ‘Brimstone Altar’ (2016) EP which featured an even deeper cut towards black metal a la Ascension or Abyssous while retaining their death metal sound. This change remains intact and expanded upon slightly on ‘Al-Khem-Me’.
There is some greater hint of the Celtic Frost and Asphyx influenced hulk of Pentacle within Verhoeven‘s guitar work but the the result is very different with some counterpoint provided by second guitarist Anton Heesterbeek (Malicious Dream). This dual attack resembles the flow of Taphos as much as it does the attack of a band like Degial and this is likely due to similar ‘old school’ influences; The most notable nods to old greats comes with “Succubus Of The 12th Aether” which holds some technique and riff semblances to Dawn‘s classic ‘Nær Sólen Gar Niþer for Evogher’), as well as “Azothoz: The Alpha & Omega of Zoa-Azoa” which burrows into the tonality of Morbid Angel‘s ‘Formulas Fatal to the Flesh’ for a necessary change of pace. Although none of these forays into black and death classicism resemble ‘catchy’ moments they do begin to add up to a greater whole as the album becomes more familiar.
With a firm grasp of the arc that ‘Al-Khem-Me’ takes came greater appreciation for the differentiation of rhythm guitar textures from song to song. Each track encapsulates into its own guitar driven piece, this allows for a relation between songs without coming across as variations on a theme. There are few moments that shift plainly between black and death metal styles on a dime and part of Lucifericon’s appeal comes from the blend of serpentine black metal they’ve achieved. The steadfast thrust of death metal provides an extra brawn that occult black metal occasionally lacks and this makes for a less shapeless listening experience overall. These are tracks to get lost in, rivers of riff and slithering ecstasy to fall into and drown under.
The most riveting moments naturally had me returning for several listens and these moments came when Lucifericon were most relaxed within their mid-paced hypnotic grooves (see: “Sevenfold”) and hitting upon classic death metal rhythm (see: “Flesh unto Void, Void unto Flesh (The Twofold Gate)”). The pleasure derived from these pieces comes from grand, undaunting composition that never feels like more than a small hill to climb. That isn’t to say simplicity is inherent or the major point of interest on this debut full-length but, rather to suggest that at no point is ‘Al-Khem-Me’ so convoluted or pointlessly atmospheric that it all falls apart or loses steam. It is nonetheless not a massively memorable piece as a whole despite the majority of the songs boasting standout guitar interest, this is the nature of most occult black/death metal. Lucifericon manage a phenomenally alluring piece of work on their debut in building greatly upon the ideas of ‘Brimstone Altar’ thanks to multitudes of blackened death metal riffs and further detailed occult alchemical themes. A moderately high recommendation. For preview I would recommend “Succubus Of The 12th Aether” and the great final climax of “Sevenfold”.
Empty the separate self. 4.0/5.0
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