Erroneous doctrines set to extinguish light — Here a mounting confederacy of ruthless deceivers and their endeavors to the dark set graceless sovereignty in the tendrils of Leviathan. No construct of ‘God’ or government will sate eternally willed diabolism aimed at the equitant and overbearing pious. Ready the lungs for the rush of cracking stone and belching fire as pyrrhic gales of noxious evil snares life to the floor, gasp at the burning intensity of carbonized and sulfuric retribution! This lava-spewing portal of sky-blackened suffocation and screaming death is the third angle and ultimate defiance from Glasgow, Kentucky-based black/death metal triumphant Fornicus, who bring heaving Earth and wailing souls to their unholiest ‘Sulphuric Omnipotence’. Boiled of flesh and calling for damnation by name, this ratcheting-up of all morbid attunement so achieves a new peak of death worship, familiar yet unquestionably empowered by freshly conjured evil.
Fornicus has been vehicle and spectacle since 2012, one of many self-sufficient United States black metal forces maintaining a do-it-yourself ethos as a matter of staying true to the ‘self’, grounded, and in control of one’s own art. Oh, and to spread blasphemy, to be clear this music is created in defiance of the “bible belt” that strains the lower United States with wretched mass ignorance and fecal-sourced monotheistic superstition. Sovereignty has granted musicians Scott Briggs (ex-Aeons of Eclipse, Velocity Studios) and Chris Carver (Bihargam, Obsidian Shrine) time necessary for refinement of tasteful and often exploratory releases showcasing an unpredictable set of evolutionary steps along their path. Soon after a demo tape would arise in 2014 their debut full-length (‘Storming Heaven‘, 2014) would actually make a bit of splash for its professional render and mastery of mid-paced black metal movements alongside some moderately effective melodicism. I’m probably more an admirer of the album art than the music in terms of the debut, songs like “Thirst For God” felt like formative pieces that needed the ‘rock’ ironed out of their edges. ‘Hymns of Dominion‘ (2016) was more or less the remedy to those complaints, featuring more of a melodic black metal edge, some deeper Bathory-esque kicks, and generally lightened death metal influences. The past does not offer a linear resolution as to what ‘Sulphuric Omnipotence’ provides, which I’d liken to being beaten by a tar-smeared truncheon, blue-lit with flame.
From its grinding distorted bass intro until the trembling Nightbringer-esque refrain before it bursts unto death, album opener “Perdition’s Guiding Winds” is torment embodied and wielded as unholy sledge. Bringing to mind the best of Incantation influenced blackened death metal, the gargling groove-ridden wrath of early Demoncy, and even a hint of Archgoat‘s more violent recency, this is undoubtedly the strongest and most death metal forward start for a Fornicus record. The slow lunging last third of the piece is testament to how far the duo are willing to bend their molten ways to make a point. It gives the rest of the album quite a bit to live up to in terms of arrangement and balance between the violent black metal they’re known for and this newly intensified death metal lean. The title track follow suit with an equally dramatic piece more in tune with where non-traditional USBM is these days, not typically occult in oeuvre but surely giving some reminder that these are the same guys who put out ‘Hymns of Dominion’ and they’re still fantastic at crafting thrilling black metal guitar work. Again a finale into mid-paced death metal informs exactly where this album is headed, in the direction of Embrace of Thorns or, the most recent Nocturnal Graves record. I wouldn’t suggest the occasionally Emperor-esque black metal guitar elements of Fornicus‘ past are tossed aside but instead they sharing nigh equal space with brutally heavy mid-paced death metal. “The Abhorrent Path” is a fine example of this, crossing Drawn and Quartered-sized riffs with warped black metal blasts throughout, dancing between the two styles and finding clever positions to merger.
The bulk of the record follows suit, finding intricacies through black metal’s rapacious atmospheric abandon and juxtaposing them with the blood-knuckled savagery of death metal’s blast and lunge. It’d be more pertinent to suggest the most inspired bouts of riff at this point and the first that came to mind at every point of reflection was the Inquisition-esque gallop n’ building harass of “One Mass Grave” which soon devolves into war blasts and pure battery as it progresses; The piece that follows, “Stormwolves”, isn’t a remarkable song but it does showcase the duo’s willingness to go full war mode and hold it all together. It is worth mentioning how much Briggs‘ drumming has improved since the ‘Feast For Rats’ EP back in 2015, much more impact in every hit and greater general use of the full kit. The Absu worthy rasp and groove of “Inexorable Pantheon of Death” provides a fine example of his ability to transition on a dime and provide a ride-able beat at every step. Beyond that, I’d found the breakdown moment that hits at the 3:30 minute mark of the song hard to miss on the full listen, a standout and an effective black metal moment emphasized. The fourth and arguably most critical track that I’ll emphasize is “Tempestuous Flames”, this is probably the track you should preview first or second for its immediate death metal groove, wily rasping vocals, and oddly effective ‘spoken word’ part as the song burns out into its slow-snaking endpoint.
All of this nuance and detail will likely only be apparent to folks well-versed in both black and death metal permutations but they matter quite a bit when considering Fornicus spent a little over two years composing and recording this album. They’ve put a considerable amount of care into every aspect of the record, from the well balanced running order to the fantastic artwork from Russian artists Alex Shadrin of Nether Temple Designs, there is strong intent and craft expressed within. If there is a split second of ‘Sulphuric Omnipotence’ where Fornicus don’t give a shit, I’ve missed it across numerous nitpicking listens. If I were going to pick at the album’s overall dynamic I’d suggest the black metal vocals suffer from the same issue the more long-winded Nightbringer albums do, the tone becomes similar between different songs creating a flatness that can be nagging on repeat listens. I’d hardly fault a band for embracing a sub-genre standard, though. Fornicus’ third album is of fine quality, embraces death metal to a fine standard, and still embodies their vibrant obsidian obsessions in the process. A high recommendation.
High recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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