Vastly underrated but fittingly underground since 1991 the devout black metal of Danish trio Denial of God reached a great point of stability and sophistication around 2005 when the two brothers (Azter and Ustumallagam) would be reinforced by (then) Ad Noctem drummer Galheim. In every sense the old ways have always propelled main songwriter/guitarist Azter forward, be it the inspirational dark heavy metal of the 80’s or the horror of all things occult; This most often manifests within Denial of God‘s music as black metal structured around melodic ‘true’ heavy metal bones. ‘Traditional’ black metal was such a driving force as the band deftly navigated the early 2000’s but within their masterful debut full-length, ‘The Horrors of Satan’ (2006), their music began to build permanent bridges into the second wave. From that point it would be a slow-but-steady climb towards their next full-length, ‘Death and the Beyond’ (2012), which’d turn out to be one of their most inspired pieces to date showcasing an inspired blend of melodic black metal with traditional heavy metal and even a bit of doom interspersed. Black metal is so often a young man’s game of pompous stylized sound design that records like ‘Death and the Beyond’ stand out like a sore thumb, if only for the sake of being written as songs rather than some hollow vessel for cheaply drawn symbolism or egotistical panache. That modus of 8-9 minute songs with compositions full of theatrics that’d have you thinking of King Diamond one moment and early Mortuary Drape the next became a truly inspired way forward for Denial of God. And then everything went black for seven years. To be fair it was an opus, a high point, and a record that would aggrandize their dynasty even when followed by a long silence.
What has changed in the last seven years? More in life than in the heavy metal arts, it would seem, as Denial of God stick to what they have done best beyond the millennium shift on ‘The Shapeless Mass’, a look at things to come as they prepare for the coming full-length ‘The Hollow Mass’. The only new material here is the fantastic nine minute opus “The Shapeless Mass” which, as depicted on the gatefold art, spins the yarn of the Golem of Prague. In this story, depending on who has interpreted it, a rabbi brings a mud golem to life to defend the Jewish people of Prague from Rudolph II of the Holy Roman Empire as he’d ordered their extermination. The best versions of this folk tale end with a berserk (or in love) mud creature wreaking havoc on the city but neither appear to be the case within this song. All signs point to ‘The Hollow Mass’ being a fantastic album if each song is of the quality of “The Shapeless Mass” here.
Beyond the title track we’re treated to a re-recording of the title track from Denial of God‘s debut EP in 1995 with “The Statues Are Watching”, nothing more than a very clean reminder that these Danish fellows have been in a league of their own for decades and remain beyond capable of great things. Side B is somewhat inconsequential for me beyond filling out this preview as a full release but their cover of (arguably) Bathory‘s most recognizable black metal song is standard if not reasonably inspired though it is recreated without flourish or artistic license. The other cover song on this second side is a version of “Mama Loi, Papa Loi” from psychedelic Caribbean folk artist Exuma who’d written the song in description of Haitian accounts of zombification, an ode to the fear that even death cannot guarantee freedom for the tormented. It is one of the more interesting ideas for a black metal version of an completely unrelated genre but none of it really capture the rhythmic interest of the original or the impassioned vocal, making it a bit more of a black/heavy metal song about zombies. No issue with that, of course, but I’d recommend the original by contrast. The big draw here should be Side A and “The Shapeless Mass” for the primer it provides in anticipation for the next long-awaited Denial of God album and because there are no true missteps in the covers/re-recordings surrounding it I can give reasonably high recommendation for this EP.
Seven snakes in the pit of the night. 3.75/5.0
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