ENTARTUNG – Maleficae Artes (2020)REVIEW

Shadows traced in cold blood, congealed and clotted in their crude outline, scraped by finger of untrained kin too naive to attempt any circle of power or protective chant. Sniveling irascible deviance belted via hormonal furor, a hatred too personal and unhinged to bother warding the coming churn of curse’s conjure, thy daimonian clench. He appears as certain as a beasts white fangs in the desert’s night air, stealth accuracy and intelligence enough to eliminate the need for a chase — As if hit by the strike of an asp, percussive as bone’s razor bite upon silent flesh, the novice is poisoned unto the delirium of possession and the punishment is painfully mundane. To become a walking ‘bad luck charm’, to see the world beneath the table and without hope of any sliding scale our misanthropic warrior of the dark arts yet sits stricken by the torpor of sedentary nihilism, chewing bitter cud before his death’s spell could finish its cast. Dabble and be ruined, attune steady hand and fortress mind-palace by way of true occult devotion and whirl limitless energetic absorption. One case study among mere hundreds, German black metal trio Entartung represent the adept ever-opening ajna, the mind’s eye that sees all and denies specialty for the sake of greater personal identity through multifarious craft. ‘Malificae Artes’ is pluralized for good reason as its verve sees no boundary unworthy of breach, easing between five-tongue’d varietal scourge of pagan, occult, naturalistic, chaotic and honorably traditional black metal styles.

The penalty for such necromancy is Death yet this can only empower those who’re forced into moribund transit — To be forbidden is to be acknowledged as worthy adversary, and this defiance of the hidden hand of the occult has long spurned on and inspired the dark visions that built Entartung who’re named for degeneracy or, more specifically the process of degeneration. Not directly connected to other entities and served by way of stage names, the spirit of the early second wave of black metal is more of a spiritual wellspring than a stylistic indicator for the project who first spiked-up on infamous black metal cult W.T.C. Productions with their first album, ‘Krypteia‘ (2012) with nigh constant comparisons with the melodic austere hierarchy of Horna-adjacent artists Sargeist and Satanic Warmaster. There was surely more to their sound than this though the point in the direction of Suomi craft typically works but I’d have to suggest just as clear nods to the melodic history of German black metal, a richly stocked well that few folks dig into. That first album was streaming black majestic bliss, a guitar-textured rub as scintillating as the fleshiest bodily pursuit via Lunar Aurora and Nagelfar at their most hateful point of evolution. Two more albums for their original label (‘Peccata Mortalia‘, 2014) and (‘Baptised into the Faith of Lust‘, 2017) found the band thinking quite a bit harder about divergent atmospheric outreach, pruning out redundancies beyond the first two albums and soon justifying the depressive rock spirited Finnish style with some serious vibrancy on the third album. Spearing the chest of religious mass insanity and referencing Dostoyevsky, Baudelaire, and Löns this was perhaps spiritually more of the same from the band on ‘Baptised…’ but also a perfect refinement of their original vision. It was as far as those original ideas could be pushed without re-imagining the entire scope of the project and I will suggest here that ‘Malificae Artes’ is that re-imagined product, a fourth skin for Entartung.

If you’ve just fired up opener “Tower of Silence” and figured “Hey man, this sounds like their other stuff!” take a deep breath and sit down, let it ring out beyond the three minute mark where the language of modern atmospheric/melodic black metal acts enters their oeuvre to great effect. The realm of bands like Uada and Sinmara aren’t that far off yet the Finn-adoration is retained. Looking beyond secular stylistic cults of personality the effect of the song is effectively dramatic in a remarkably different station than previously explored and the statement appears to be that Entartung are still themselves yet there is some need to alter their genetic code or otherwise risk the mark of a devolving self-obsessed sound. It reads as atmospheric black metal built upon the bones of high melodic craft, the core push of the song restated in the final salvo of the last ~90 seconds of the piece. The full listen is comprised of four major 8-10 minute pieces divided between Side A and Side B, so a lot of weight lands upon “Bortförd” to be the grand epic that it is and to offer a clear message of deviance and movement beyond past definitions of ‘self’. It is perhaps more akin to Porta Nigra in that sense, pushing towards a folkish acoustic introduction that is Bathory-esque in scope; The introductory moments of the song are perhaps as paganistic as they are rooted in any classique yet avant-garde notions but there is a satisfying muddling of defined borders that feels old-yet-new in terms of German black metal then (as in mid-to-late 90’s) and now.

A brief acoustic pieces segues into the increasingly mystic grip of the album where “Circle Of Suffering” now fully aggresses towards that pristine evolution of Nagelfar prior to the infamous von Meilenwald solo sojourn in the early 2000’s. We’ve reached a point of ‘epic’ black metal here as Side B kicks off and for my own taste it is a glorious thing, a worthy event that only increases in value as I feel my chest rising with inspiration at its stomping onset. The introduction of this song is a thing of majesty that fades out into a rainy night, dripping medieval prisons and rat infested plague heaps there is an exciting reprisal built out of that atmospheric break in the middle of the song and this’d actually struck me most during a moment of mind’s wandering away from the focus of the album, the refrain served to intensify the impact of the return and though this is a simple moment and a trick used throughout the album it allows the mind some breathing room and allows Entartung to reinforce their melodic statements with triumphant reprisals throughout. The only point where I’d truly had to resign myself to go with the flow of ‘Maleficae Artes’ came with the final piece “Aufruhr MDXXV”, a song that initially presents itself as little more than a medley of textures and ideas that only become more convincing as the 12+ minute track fully realizes itself in the last third. It takes quite a while to get there and this is a double-edged reality; On one hand we are seeing every side of Entartung in one piece and on the other hand it suffers from some directionality until proper momentum is built. This observation could be expanded to a critique of the full listen, which hits upon strong variety and evocative melodic development but doesn’t necessarily gel into one until you’ve immersed deep enough to see all elements glom together.

For my own taste “Bortförd” and “Circle of Suffering” are enough to warrant grabbing the album, the bookends of the experience are only slightly less memorable and each serves paths unto the past (to start) or new steps going forth (as it ends). There are some exceptional points of resonance or enlightened ideas resolved within each of the four main pieces that make up ‘Maleficae Artes’ yet I don’t personally find a full spin physically gripping so much as it is sharp as entertainment and an intelligently crafted black metal work — Certainly a strong bound forward for the project. My recommendation is yet moderately high, aimed at black metal attuned folks seeking finesse over raucous attack.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
TITLE:Maleficae Artes
LABEL(S):Dunkelheit Produktionen
RELEASE DATE:August 7th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Black Metal

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