Runemagick – Into Desolate Realms (2019) REVIEW

Beneath this vast volcanic lake lies a coming mass extinction by the coughing of great pillars, a deeply buried creeping death that’d seep through porous stone and rest beneath their waters, waiting to silently burst. From the depths it slithers as a boiling pot of snakes, a hissing and bubbling sulphur infused horror that’d blanket every valley in the night and silently choke the pet, the child, and every blue-bursting face its toxicity kisses. From the sapphire mirror of yesterday to the brown cesspool of today this degassing phenomenon of dark waters is the very breath of the torn and tormented Gaia exacting slow and inevitable revenge upon the ruinous lice of her scalp, mankind. Worship her or burn hotter the flame of your own destruction, the inevitable descent into a desolate Earth is a slow-motion rockslide already at your back; You may surf upon  it but never escape. Proof that these waters stir with menace and that each great mountain lake portends doom lies in the cryptic, crawling rhythmic wonders of the reawakened golem of Göteborg, Swedish death/doom metal legends Runemagick. The thirteenth great work from the band, ‘Into Desolate Realms’, arrives with the cobwebs dusted off and the moss sloughed away as the project achieves their third year of revival with greater ease of movement. This dance in the shadows reveals itself as a psychedelic incantation of doom doubly considered that’d surround and suffocate with its gloriously immersive smoking death-thunder.

Evoked From Abysmal Sleep‘ (2018) was one of the most anticipated and celebrated releases of last year on my part due to my own fandom these last fifteen or so years, where I’d begin collecting their releases starting with the underrated ‘The Supreme Force of Eternity’ (1998). If you’d like a gushing history of the mountain of works that followed beyond that point the review for the previous album does a healthy enough job of recapping how this band would morph from inspired blackened death metal towards a brilliantly psychedelic doom influenced death/doom jam machine. At the time that comeback record surely felt like it collected all of the lessons learned in slow-burning sludge/death metal project Heavydeath (now Den Tunga Döden) and rolled back the clock just far enough to 2007 to make sense within an already accomplished discography. Songwriter and vocalist/guitarist Nicklas Rudolfsson (Sacramentum, Necrocurse, ex-Deathwitch) had found a very distinct groove at that point and by comparison he’d comment that ‘Evoked From Abysmal Sleep’ was somewhat straight-forward and rushed which allows some explanation for what a gigantic and thoughtful opus ‘From Desolate Realms’ is in response– It expresses as a massive and emboldened entity upon reflection.

Slithering, bubbling, shadowy, and suffocating in its modus this thirteenth hour and ten minute monolith is not simply a dead stone that’d crumble before the listener’s ears but an active and oozing volcanic event that pulls in nuance from the greater Runemagick body of work; The full listen does a beautiful job of illustrating a history of learning through geologic time and artifice without ever appearing redundant or nostalgic. In the tradition of true psychedelia the mind-altering movements within ‘Into Desolate Realms’ come first with immersion and then side-swipe in with unexpected nuance that is almost always crawling, flailing in shadow forms until a hook, a killer riff or stunning movement strikes its poison upon the relaxed flesh of the mind. This is very much in the spirit of the project’s post-Century Media trilogy as they’d entered the millennium with an unshackled mindset… and that isn’t to say that ‘Evoked From Abysmal Sleep’ wasn’t there, though it was not yet this alive and cunning.

If you’re feeling daunted already by the length allow me to rephrase my “71 minute” length assessment; The album proper is roughly 49 minutes long and the CD/Digital versions include three tracks from ‘The Opening of Dead Gates’ (2019) EP released this September and this won’t feel at all out of place because all of these tracks were from the same sessions at Andy LaRocque‘s Sonic Train Studios (as well as Raven Noise Studios) in early 2019. These guys are old pros who can rock out self-produced and recorded material on their own that is world class, but it was great to see LaRocque‘s studio handling the drum recordings as he’d been a key producer/engineer on Runemagick‘s stylistic transformation on three records between 1999-2002. It was clearly an inspired session where all pieces are relevant and worthy but if you’re feeling squeamish the vinyl version of ‘Into Desolate Realms’ is about as long as the previous record. Between this album and the additional 50+ minutes of 2019 releases (two singles, the aforementioned EP, and a split with Chthonic Deity) it is clear that the muse and the momentum is strongly felt within this resurrected Runemagick and as a longtime fan I have been foaming at the mouth for it all year.

For the uninitiated the old admixture I’d go for in description of the 2000’s era of the band would be something like “early Electric Wizard-meets-Bolt Thrower” but today we’re graced with modern bands that are more complete and meaningful comparisons (many of which I’d made last year) such as Hooded Menace, Necros Christos, and Druid Lord. The pure death metal fan who loves a subtle punch of early Celtic Frost in their death/doom metal sound would do well to explore this album and the greater works of this band. Things have shifted (stylistically speaking) just slightly enough that some of Runemagick‘s past comes back into view, such as the very ‘Dawn of the End’ (2007) doomed grooves of “Into the Dragon Star” that’re quickly elevated by the now much more active presence of Jonas Blom who’d guested on the previous album and actually served as the drummer on ‘The Supreme Force of Eternity’. But this isn’t an album about stylistic callbacks, rather a critical ear taken to every element of ‘Evoked From Abysmal Sleep’ and improved. ‘Into Desolate Realms’ is heavier, more detailed, nuanced, better produced, more varietal, and generally pulls out all of the stops without sounding too eager for a malevolently meandering death/doom record in 2019; It is a fantastic full listen that always seems to lead somewhere within its ranting fusion of forms.

At some point it’d become surreal that I’d set with a feeling of mystified joy listening to a record that should probably be devastating and dissociative. Still I could not shake the feeling that I was being lead towards a darkness I would happily peer into for an eternity, like a zealot finally about to meet his creator at a bottom of a bloody spiked pit I remain excited for the death and beyond within this revived vision of Runemagick. So, it’d take some time to accept my position as a fan in the throes of satiation and develop any real qualms with ‘Into Desolate Realms’, it couldn’t be forced and ultimately the only thought I’d had was that the CD version didn’t need those additional tracks from the most recent EP, it’d have been solid enough at 49 minutes. That said, I felt like “Wolves of Nocturnal Light” made for an incredible closer for the full listen so I could easily invalidate that criticism in the same breath; If anything that track alone is a reminder of everything Runemagick does so well while touching upon some of their earliest ‘blackened Bolt Thrower-isms’ along its 12+ minute reign. At the risk of droning on like too much of an overzealous fan I can reign it in long enough to suggest that this is one of the finer death/doom records of the year while giving ‘Into Desolate Realms’ one of my higher recommendations of 2019. Highest recommendation. For preview purposes I’d suggest the title track (“Into Desolate Realms”) is an immediate and hard-hitting piece that showcases the amount of refinement and growth beyond the prior record and the doom metal refrains on “In The Sign Of The Dragon Star” served as one of many big hooks that’d pulled me back in for countless spins.

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Artist Runemagick
Type Album
Released October 25, 2019
BUY from High Roller Records

BUY/LISTEN on Runemagick’s Bandcamp!

Follow Runemagick on Facebook
Genre Death/Doom Metal

Anthems of olden magic. 5.0/5.0

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