With the fiery clash of the penitent and the fallen malevolently erupting around me for months now, I’d have no greater regret in hindsight than leaving German occult thrasher Diabolic Night‘s debut full-length, ‘Beyond the Realm’, off of my final best of the year list. ‘Epic’ thrashing Teutonic mad genius Heavy Steeler is surely a perfectionist guided by a specific meld of traditional heavy metal styles but ‘Beyond the Realm’ isn’t plainly acceptable as a sub-genre entry, it is exceptional for the artist’s austere taste and ambitious, sometimes virtuosic scope expressed throughout — It unquestionably smokes and belongs way up high alongside the current most powerful acts within the ‘evolved but traditional’ speed metal side of things today (see: Chevalier, Malokarpatan, Witching Hour and such.)
There was no shortage of bedroom black/thrash upchuck released throughout the last decade and it’d have been fair to write off Diabolic Night‘s earliest recordings along with that crowd. The riffs were already indicative of the artist’s intended style but the use of a drum machine on those first two EPs was just bad, even with a whirlpool of reverb lain upon ’em on ‘Sepulchral Magic‘ (2014). It’d been the ‘Infernal Power‘ 7″ from 2015 that set this project on my ‘to watch’ radar, though the programmed drums weren’t there the songwriting was finally up to speed. I wouldn’t suggest that Heavy Steeler‘s work is any less independent than it has been but in the four year interim he has staffed this record with the exact right folks, from cover art to label and mixing etc.) who serve to elevate his vision into a professional and resonant record that’d be hard to pass by. The most important choice being the inclusion of drummer Christhunter of JT Ripper who provides a much needed ‘organic’ kit bashing for Diabolic Night‘s sound.
I’ll always be screaming at the gills for any speed metal record that invokes the spirit of two classics Destruction‘s ‘Infernal Overkill’ and Running Wild‘s ‘Gates to Purgatory’ and there is just a whiff of each infused in ‘Beyond the Realm’. I could see the references folks would make to Iron Angel and Venom in this band on an equally superficial level but looking directly at compositional style, the extra flair applied to everything, and with consideration for the dramatic introductions that segue between pieces Diabolic Night‘s debut could be likened to Blind Guardian‘s ‘Battalions of Fear’ if seen through ‘R.I.P.’-era Coroner‘s brutal sights. No, it isn’t that melodic or that shred-heavy but even a song like “Majesty” has its instrumental equivalent on ‘Beyond the Realm’. So, yank your head out of the pedestrian first wave black/speed gutter and look to the power and refinement of higher-brained late 80’s speed metal craft when setting expectations.
Some of my own enthusiasm does come from having moderate reservations about what a full-length from Diabolic Night might sound like and the great surprise was that each of the songs included do live up to the quality suggested by the “Infernal Power” single. Of course I wouldn’t say this is going to impress folk who think little of German thrash and speed metal traditions, those sort of folks are rare and woefully misguided anyhow. The only uncertain target for ‘Beyond the Realm’ is the first wave black metal fan and the black/thrash maniac who might not be up for the ‘epic’ heavy metal lilt of the majority of these songs; Closer “Descension Into Dying Spheres” finds a fine blend of black metal elements, briefly resembling Nocturnal Witch with the blasting intro into a few drilling riffs but the majority of the record pulls from the sped up rip of mid-to-late 80’s heavy metal rather than the formative days of extreme metal nearby.
I personally love it and have had this record in regular rotation since early November, obsessed with the high-falutin’ jog of its ambitious ‘old school’ songwriting and all of the smaller details that add up to distinction. From the familiar opening leads on “In Retribution”, the Symphony of the Night thunder on the outro to “Odyssey”, to the triumphant shredding across the span of standout “Crescent Moon Rise” this fine debut from Diabolic Night carries great personality in passing and down to the finest detail and deserves a high recommendation.
High recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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