Bearer of the lunar eclipse, bringer of earthquakes and inclement weather, the snake-like dragon Bakunawa of ancient Filipino mythology is said to have always been on the lips of the babaylans, shamans of the people, who’d use the oral traditions of transient Vedic influence to form explanation for the natural phenomena around them. Bathala, creator of all things, would banish the great bent-snake from the sea as punishment for his consumption of all but seven moons as Bakunawa would exact his revenge for being denied the love of a human girl. The babaylans explained intermittent eclipses as Bakunawa trying to return home to the sea and find the girl (and her family) that Bathala had burned alive to prevent the union of serpent and man. Some tribes saw him banished to the underworld and others to the sky but, all would agree upon the power of Bakunawa’s vengeance influencing the weather, the tides, and celestial phenomenon. Weighted cultural mythos and mystical parables of deities’ tragic existence is par for the course in the work of San Pablo, Philippines based black metal act Omenfilth who return for their third full-length album since forming in 2013. ‘Devourer of the Seven Moons’ inches Omenfilth ever closer to their goals without losing the rusted thrashing Hellenic black metal influences they’ve expressed so strongly in the past.
Though their Greek black metal influences are made fairly clear, particularly a love of early Rotting Christ and Varathron, there is something a bit darker and more ruinous within the heavier moments of any Omenfilth album. ‘Hymns of Diabolical Treachery’ (2018) was my personal introduction to the project and it’d had a somewhat strong undercurrent of classic first wave black metal and bestial thrash metal from the 80’s. Though “The Embrace of Solitude” and their righteous cover of Vulcano‘s ‘Bloody Vengeance’ continue that thread in spirit, they’ve opted for a pace closer to ‘Her Majesty at the Swamp’ on the majority of these compositions. The darker demo-era beginnings of bands like Moonspell, Alastis, and Black Crucifixion are well represented on ‘Devourer of the Seven Moons’ but like Moenen of Xezbeth, there is a unique enough spin on that old style within to keep things distinct and interesting. That said, the opener “Summon the Beast of Damnation” is immediate and brutal and might give a first impression of heightened brutality. Most any band I’d compare them to surely began with that same killer instinct in hand but might’ve only had a drum machine to work with circa ’87-’92.
If for whatever reason you’d remember my main gripe with ‘Hymns of Diabolical Treachery’ last year, the main point of contention was that its length was padded by a 25+ minute ambient piece that functioned as the B-side for the record. This is one of the worse holdovers from second wave black metal in eastern Europe where a 15 minute rager might find itself accompanied by 45 minutes of tape noise and dungeon synth. If I can give a pass to Malokarpatan for it on their latest EP then I suppose I can look back and at least relax some of that old irritation. None of that applies to ‘Devourer of the Seven Moons’ though there are two ~7 minute live songs at the end of the album that pad its length to 45+ minutes. I definitely have patience enough for the meditative instrumental interludes within but typically prefer to cut off an album at 30 minutes if the material is strong enough and in this case, it is. Of the core five songs here the four that aren’t covers are very strong and inspired. In some ways this amount of ‘filler’ is slight deja-vu but this time around all of it makes good sense and gives ‘Devourer of the Seven Moons’ a classic black metal atmosphere that keys into their main influences. The live tracks are great quality, also.
I have great admiration for the type of mystical and mythological epic black metal that Omenfilth are aiming for and generally found this to be a great improvement in that regard. I’m sure some prior fans will miss some of the Tormentor-esque classic thrash influences but they’re really just better inserted into the dynamic scope of the core tracklist. I’d still suggest that ‘Devourer of the Seven Moons’ is a record to be enjoyed piecemeal, in 1-2 song chunks to be observed and enjoyed as grand, riff-oriented epics that snarl and kick hard as Omenfilth hammers through them. A fine release with an above-average sound and style with plenty of big riffs lands well in my favor though for my own tastes I wanted one more five minute banger rather than a few live tracks and it’d have been golden. Moderately high recommendation. For preview I’d suggest “The Embrace of Solitude” is a huge moment and one of my favorite pieces from the band; Likewise, the simple-but-effective progression of “Seared By The Flames Of Bawo” really sold this album for me.
Pangs of celestial vengeance. 3.5/5.0
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