Wigilia dnia św. Łucji, noc czarownic (‘the night of the witches on the eve of St. Lucia) is said to mark a thinning and/or breach of the boundaries between the Earth and the netherworld. Mystic places of natural convergence mark gatherings for unseen witches who’d only leave December snowstorms and barren cattle as evidence for their battles for power. No region of Poland believed so deeply in the power of this night more than those north of Babia Góra (‘witch/crone mountain’) where the sun would set earliest and the night of the witches would seem eternal. As with the feast of St. Walpurgia Christians would come to claim these pagan nights of fear and despair as markers for seasonal feasts and defiance of old religion but, these Hexennacht could never hope to be erased throughout Europe by such an inferior and shallow cult and the witches’ sabbaths persist as thrilling natural lore today. Blackened death metal maniacs Doombringer appear mystified by the bleak and harrowing witchery within the folk traditions of their native central Poland for just over a decade now. This second full-length ‘Walpurgis Fires’ finds the band dancing even more wildly around the pyre and conjuring their darkest doom upon mankind to date.
In nearing their thirteenth year there is some illuminating value in returning to Doombringer‘s first spells beyond the Old Coffin Spirit‘s (Bestial Raids) exodus from Cultes des Ghoules prior to the recording of ‘Häxan, …or Medieval Witchcraft and Infanticide…’ where the focus was as blurred and rowdy as his previous station but his own brutal and vomitous death metallic interpretation. ‘The Primeval Sorcery’ (2008) demo was a fine embodiment of what raw black/death terror Europe felt as groups like Necromantia, Varathron, and Mortuary Drape found their earliest and most brutal rituals in moving from death metal towards the ‘first wave’ of black metal in their regions. By their second demo ‘Abhorrent Dreams of the End’ (2009) it was clear that Old Coffin Spirit intended to move Doombringer on towards greater distinction from both Culte des Ghoules and his primitive Bestial Raids act.
The twist-heavy and tense doomed blackened death rip of Doombringer would reach its first defining milestone with ‘Sevenfold Pestilence’ (2012), an EP loaded with cryptic doom atmosphere and unpredictable blackened rhythmic aggression throughout. I reviewed ‘The Grand Sabbath’ when it released back in 2014 and sure enough it still mystifies me today as their crossing of thickly atmospheric nigh cavern-core intensity and jutting, thrashing death metal riffs was exceptional. The production was grimy but still pristine in execution with enough force to carry its distorted, erratic scrapes and howling vocal rants. If you’re expecting ‘Part Two’ five years later I suppose you’ll be satisfied by the range of expression and intensity on ‘Walpurgis Fires’ but the production is something entirely different, aiming for a more raw black metal sound akin to Veiled (Germany) and recent Culte des Ghoules‘ but with a hit of Barathrum‘s doomed sessions on the side.
Unpredictable, erratic, bounding, ripping, all serve to describe the rhythmic value of Doombringer five years removed from their debut and a distinctly garage metal guitar tone goes a long way to intensify this effect. Though I listen to plenty of old noise rock and dissonant extreme metal there were points of mental disarray while examining ‘Walpurgis Fire’ for analysis. In this sense Old Coffin Spirit demands you follow his thread and makes a great effort to entertain with not mere twists but blurring messes that drop like severed limbs and that’d regrow into new forms. I wouldn’t say this is as surreal is it sounds but I did immediately appreciate that this wasn’t just an iteration of previous ideas but a full development of Doombringer‘s stylistic strengths. The sway of the album begins with a fiery band and clattering rip that edges towards doom as the full-length spins. The guitar work acts as supreme driver but it is often the drumming that crashes the vehicle, so to speak, and though this might sound like several bouts of interrupted flow at first the entirety of the listen is intentional and fluid when focusing on the guitar as the central voice of each piece.
“Samhain Melancholia” is probably the most clear event horizon for the entrance of directly affecting doom upon the style of ‘Walpurgis Fires’ and though its riffs aren’t earth-shattering they are reminiscent of the earliest and most primitive Doombringer lore. Therein (as well as “Unnatural Acts of Flying”) I felt the old Hellenic/eastern European wave of doom’s possession upon blackened dread was thickest, this resulted in a preference for the second half of the album for my own tastes. All of the pent-up energy release in the first three tracks isn’t without its own magic and I think fans of the raw side of Culte des Ghoules with be excited to discover this album because of the production sound and these ominous, eruptive, and raw blackened death songs. There is enough to unravel and relish in here to warrant a moderately high recommendation for ‘Walpurgis Fires’ as Doombringer return with a mildly memorable record that makes up for any smaller issues with violent and inspired energetic performances. For preview I’d recommend starting with “Agenda de Aquelarre” as it gives a ‘bigger picture’ for the whole record within 3-4 minutes and then jump over to “Samhain Melancholia” to see how far they expand those doomed sections on the full listen.
With the Devil at my side. 3.75/5.0
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