OCCULT BURIAL – Burning Eerie Lore (2020)REVIEW

The skulls of Ottawa’s long forgotten accursed will inevitably be unearthed in the Park of the Dead! Be they keen-nosed ghouls hunting for ancient bones to fill unholy reliquaries or, simply kids playing soccer and scuffing around the dirt in various modes of recreation all bones, skulls and tombstones will surface to considerable public horror. The blood-soaked soil beneath the playgrounds of Macdonald park is on the hands of a city that would forget its buried dead after countless generations, those crumbling graves would be bulldozed and planted with deep-rooted trees and well groomed grass! The horror, the curse, and the forever empty lot boiling with the disturbed and trampled remains of their ancestors raises an restless fog upon the city as Satanic speed metal trio Occult Burial conjure their black thrashing vibe into unholy traditional assault via their second full-length album ‘Burning Eerie Lore‘, a true step into pure evil heavy metal personae and strongest conviction. The outcome may not be vitally original but the expression available is ultimately inspired, over the top, and nigh exemplar in form.

Formed in 2012 between current Cauchemar drummer and Occult Burial vocalist/bassist Joël Thomas, ex-Iron Dogs (see also: Ice War) drummer Dan Lee and guitarist Dan McLoud the trio have remained steadfast since in aiming for the simple yet demanding focus of first wave black metal, satanic speed metal, black/speed metal, and however else you’d choose to describe the fast and evil heavy metal that’d broke the surface tension of the early-to-mid 80’s between Slayer, Venom, Bathory and countless other important regional favorites beyond. The earliest stuff from the band, including a demo (‘Demo 2013‘, 2013) that was later released with an additional cover song represented a straight imitation of those early works, primitive and in most cases still influenced by the punkish wreck of Iron Dogs (in my opinion) representing speed metal just short of metalpunk and with a raw ‘black metal’ affect. The band needed to cook it up a bit longer so it’d be a full three years before their debut full-length (‘Hideous Obscure‘, 2016) kicked-up dust with its take on the ‘Show No Mercy’ and demo-era Infernäl Mäjesty spectrum; Very much a raw and semi-throttled evil thrash metal album rather than just straight burning hot black/thrash metal yet, the influences from early Destruction, Bathory, and median forms like Poison had fully pulled away from the punkish crack of their demo, leaving the majority of their post-Iron Dogs scent behind. It was a scorcher of an album aimed at an ’85 spirit held to a ’95 level of glorious black/speed metal hindsight. My main criticism at the time was essentially: Did it really stand out beyond just sounding cool as Hell? Sure, I mean the straight forward evil feeling of that debut wins out in the long run but the emergence of a much improved follow-up four years later allows the distinction between strong conviction/intent versus impossible to ignore, over the top pure heavy metal gumption. Officially speaking, Occult Burial have only improved in leaps between each release, ‘Burning Eerie Lore’ represents their strongest material to date.

Does this suggest that the ‘Skeletal Laughter‘ EP from 2018 is indicative of this new record’s style? Not exactly, I mean that song is definitely included here but there is yet a bit of ‘Blood Fire Death’ still coursing through their wares, even if most of the more compelling pieces on the album are decidedly leaning towards a pure 80’s heavy/speed metal style. On ‘Burning Eerie Lore’ Occult Burial are no less traditional in their pursuit of satanic speed metal but they’ve cranked their rasping wild personality to an exhilarating high, a raven screeched cacophony of evil heavy metal that won’t be ignored in a crowded hall. That said, you could draw some parallels between certain songs on the debut and this one, perhaps simply by virtue of honing their approach to songwriting without wavering in influence and ideal; The lineage is there and the slow realization of potential is notable thus far. This is an important point to ping for now but roll back to this “rasping wild personality” idea, where Thomas‘ screeches, rasps, echoes, and wails his crow-filled cauldron of a voice as a blanket of pestilential spew set just below the heavier din of the performances. Back int he day first wave black metal was wild and raw enough to compete with the loudest power/speed, 80’s death, and fuzz-gored doom back in the day and, ideally, any modern band should be loud and crazed enough to fit a bill with ‘Violence and Force’-era Exciter or ‘Gates to Purgatory’-era Running Wild. I don’t know if we’re necessarily up there with Occult Burial just yet in terms of songwriting but they’ve made a huge stride with ‘Burning Eerie Lore’ and again, I mean to suggest we’ve gotten more influence from traditional heavy/speed metal album this time around.

Cue fuckin’ Sheepdog in his prime screeching “Turn it up… turn it up!” on ‘Malicious Intent’ — Most definitely play it loud… and I mean that as a practical suggestion, the impact of ‘Burning Eerie Lore’ is entirely lost at middling volumes and the recording is certainly dynamic enough to handle it this time around. As compressed as ‘Hideous Obscure’ was to my ears this is a wide-open burning church-sized space being filled and because the vocals are set aback and echoing down into the mix, louder is absolutely better. This is the main reason I wouldn’t necessarily point towards Nifelheim or early Aura Noir for an easy black thrash metal reference this time around, not only is the bass guitar gloriously present here but the recording isn’t about thunderous attack as much as it is creeping, buzzing and often catchy speed metal pieces; Consider the difference between ‘Infernal Overkill’ (or Iron Angel‘s debut, even) and ‘Endless Pain’ in reference to a song like “Highway Through Borderland”, the groove of that main riff is hook enough to keep things burning along for several minutes but the development of two different points of refrain and the play between them exemplifies where Occult Burial might be just slightly more clever than some of their suggested influences, finding paths around entirely typical traditional craft yet still relying upon nuance for effect. Have they been listening to triumphant French speed metal? (“Griffes du Désespoir”) Taking deeper stock in the empowered riffs of early German thrash? (“Pyramide de Tête Coupées”) There are songs waiting to be discovered within that beg these questions as they become more familiar and although ‘Burning Eerie Lore’ isn’t particularly referential in terms of compositions this doesn’t mean their influences aren’t quite obvious in spirit.

Thankfully all of this is not only status quo (or better) to the average traditional heavy metal addict but it fits beautifully into the spectrum of both modern and ancient black/heavy metal, Satanic speed metal, and any other sub-genre descriptors for over the top “evil” vocals applied to menacing speed/heavy metal attacks. All of this is a known quantity, righteous tradition upheld, so the greater charm of Occult Burial comes with their own shaping of those forms into exciting, riff-forward music that is flamboyant and turbo-charged enough to stand out and get your air guitar hands moving. Although I’d gotten pretty burnt out on black/thrash metal variations in 2019 ‘Burning Eerie Lore’ is an exemplar surge of energetic, brutally evil speed metal that is hard to find any real fault in. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Burning Eerie Lore
LABEL(S):Invictus Productions [EU]
Electric Assault Records [US]
Stygian Black Hand [US]
Temple of Mystery [Canada]
RELEASE DATE:October 30th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Black/Speed Metal,
First Wave Black Metal,
Satanic Speed Metal

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