With our fisheries depleted and no source of gold artifice to sustain the farcical economy of our dire little fog-soaked burg an oath that would transform us unknowingly into monstrosities is a choice made out of pure survival. Bound by our own words, testaments of discrete faith and loyalty through progenation bind an irreversible curse for the sake of thriving temporarily. Who could see happiness in the perpetual throes of poverty? A curse and a transformation is merely one step towards enlightenment in this new dark religion but it won’t come without the Order’s insistence that the oath was not to simply copulate but… to create abomination spawn through intimacy with frog, toad, and salamander. Evil deeds create diabolical offspring, that much is sure. We know this because the Greek black metal scene has proven this mutation only begets interminable rewards of ever-darkening melodious heavy metal though it took some time to root and reap generational rewards. Synteleia is that transmogrification of flesh into gill and claw, a crooked spawn of the old ways long warped by a tradition hidden from the world for decades. Their debut full-length, ‘Ending of the Unknown Path’, is the enlightenment sought through the cult and finally: A Greek black metal band lives up to the riffs of the early 90’s scene for an entire album.
The devout Hellenic black metal fan will see ‘End of the Unknown Path’ as a fully realized line-up of the best of the 1989-1996 era of Greek scene but they’d be missing Synteleia’s own embellishments which often draw even more heavily from the epic heavy metal influences that made the ‘Greek sound’ distinct in the first place. Opener ‘Daemonica Infernalium’ should immediately strike the senses of anyone who thirsts for the blood of those first two Rotting Christ full-lengths but the song’s pace and style is technically much closer to Thou Art Lord‘s ‘Eosphoros’ and the breaks into chorales and power metal rhythm guitars just past the halfway point is very much in line with Ancient Rites‘ early days (‘The Diabolic Serenades’) minus the jolts of death metal. Much of the record can be dissect in this manner with references to the first two Varathron records, Kawir‘s ‘To Cavirs’, and even Agatus during the second half of the record but you won’t hear any particularly huge nods to Necromantia unless I’ve missed it along the way. Is it just a tour of the old scene, then? No, to reiterate the key point here, Synteleia expand their own vision from familiar feeling and structure.
“Ithaqua, thy Mighty Storm” will stand out immediately for its descending bassline, reaching back to a ‘Don’t Break the Oath’ moment and the operatic vocals will have you wondering if this doesn’t have more to do with Moonspell‘s ‘Wolfheart’ than it does Rotting Christ. ‘End of the Unknown Path’ doesn’t stray wildly from the past as often as they pull in the current legacies being built between the post-90’s era of Varathron and newer bands like Funeral Storm, Melan Selas, and Cult of Eibon. That isn’t to say they’re just another one of -those- bands but that the inventive things they’ve done with the sound here immediately stands out among their peers; If this band kills live and they keep the distinct flair for the dramatic (but powerful) alive in future releases there is no stopping the momentum felt coming off of this fine record. The niche is well represented by adept songwriting skills with an ear for compositions that would primarily develop around masterful riffs but find inventive ways to enhance the atmosphere that those big heavy metal riffs would create.
The value here is first in the riffs. Sure, that might sound trite initially but that is the heart and the power of the Hellenic black metal legacy and it is perfectly represented here on ‘Ending of the Unknown Path’. Secondly, much like Funeral Storm, the major draw towards what Synteleia does comes with their own take on these familiar sounds. There is a fine series of lines between ‘retro’ worship, cumulative ‘scene sound’ recreation, and just general plagiarism under the guise of either but in this case we have an earnest temple built upon the foundations of the secular history of a region. As a fellow with a deep appreciation for this style all aspects of this recording were redeeming for my own tastes, especially because it occasionally takes serious stabs at ‘Walpurgisnacht’ and even a few dips towards ‘In the Garden of the Unearthly Delights’. This sort of record cannot go wrong when it comes from dedicated fans and I believe that much could be said for the folks behind Synteleia as their understanding of what makes Hellenic black metal distinct and powerful shines through every second of the full listen. Decide for yourself if the H.P. Lovecraft themes are interesting or not, I find them interesting though I would prefer the lyricists created their own worlds beyond. Highly recommended. For preview purposes I’d suggest my personal favorite tracks “Missioner of Sorrow” and “Ithaqua, Thy Mighty Storm”.
Father Dagon, Mother Hydra and… 4.0/5.0
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