APOCRYPHAL REVELATION – Primeval Devilish Wisdom (2020)REVIEW

The second wave of black metal is perhaps too well-known for its perceived godhead, the Norse severity that’d mill anti-social anti-artisan expression into profitable empire(s). The now better known spread of the first wave beyond the mid-to-late 80’s would express as niche yet cross-cultural appeal unto the darkest of late 80’s heavy metal scenes as music in opposition, defiant and blasphemous sects of largely singular beings who’d filled the void without any intention of dryly emulating well-seeded faraway empires. Today this reads as mass synchronicity without context where rhythmic ideals shared between early 90’s Czechia, Brasilia, Italia and perhaps the best known triumphs of Hellas were known, shared, traded and informed of one another in some cases and to some degree at the time. Today these heroic acts are heralded more often than ever, no longer secret sudaria pocket-hoarded in cryptic collections thanks in large part to younger acts bringing style, occult honor and auld unholy fascination back into view of the most perceptive underground tunnel-diggers. The hard work of folks digging up, remastering and reissuing long out of print gems so that they are widely available for the enrichment of all archives is no less important. This specific pulse of evil becomes more prevalent with each passing year, lo and at the unholy behest of this crypt fully cracked open does our blood-storm of pestilence and grief intensify even greater in the presence of Apocryphal Revelation, a sect securely out of place, devout and lost in the ancient mysteries of timeless black metal art. Their second full-length album, ‘Primeval Devilish Wisdom‘, arrives with the complete vision of the band, the fullest range of interests and morbidities divulged to date after a bout of passionate interest diverted the stream of their first album towards a certain specificity. In every sense it is their realized potency, all manner of inspired indulgence spilling like blood sacrifice to attract lingering shadowed beasts.

Fuck you Jesus Christ…” — Hey, that kind of sentiment might make some folks roll their gerbil eyes but anytime a band pitch shifts a directly spoken line like that and plants it at the end of a song my mind takes a deep dive back to Mystifier‘s yet under-appreciated 1996 album ‘The World Is So Good That Who Made It Doesn’t Live‘ and well, certainly the two albums the preceded it with a much more raw black/death metal hybrid that is yet uniquely inspired. “Sorcerer’s Oath” ends with this line near the end of Apocryphal Revelation‘s second official demo (‘Abyssic Cries From the Netherworld‘, 2015) and this is the grain that’d tip the scales towards some early inspiration taken from that particular band’s black metal siding. A flood of interesting points fly in screaming as that considerable demo plays, with touches one might associate with (early) Necromass, certain Mortuary Drape records, and some of the bands we’d naturally associate with the periphery of Mystifier back in the day (Amen Corner, Impurity, Murder Rape, etc.) even if they are typically too brutal and death metal oriented at some point. We won’t point towards Czechia just yet but rather Hellas as a bout of inspiration drove Master of Graveyard Torment and crew towards a debut album (‘Reverence for the Kings of Hell‘, 2017) driven by compulsion, a distinct choice to worship the Greek black metal impetus. The result was generally on par with Caedes Cruenta, Synteleia, and Ithaqua, with some clear nods to Varathron, Kawir, and perhaps the atmosphere of early Agatus. Mostly mid-paced black metal that pulled from a classic pool of simpler heavy metal riffs circa 1994 or so but, performed in time. — No staggered drum hits or shambling guitar tone and this’d naturally made for a triumphant sound embodied by the album’s centerpiece the 14+ minute “Seeker of the Cosmos”, an important example of well-worn influence shared via touches of their own madness, such as the naïve fanfare of the keyboard break in the middle of the song. You cannot help but smile and nod your head in witness of them getting it “right”. This is the right mindset to enter ‘Primeval Devilish Wisdom’ with, trusting they have put this music to reel with some true fixation and serious aura aimed at the old ways, yet this second album isn’t so fixated on one particular auld scene within a niche but rather the broader niche in fuller view.

To be sure this band is in the exact right place next to labelmates Cemetery Lights and Moenen of Xezbeth via similar pacing, shared influences, and perhaps the shared glorious amber residue that comes from listening to Varathron and Necromantia records ’til they’ve warped. I would go one step further and suggest that folks who’re tied up in the bliss of Departure Chandelier will likely find some pieces to thier liking as well but, of course from a bit more bestial source. What parts of the globe and their most statuesque works we find in reference and remembrance via Apocryphal Revelation are not always predictable this time around, though. “Wickedness” is the perfect place to start via its unthawed occult thrash riff drive; What is essentially a second introduction for “Profane” builds tension and mystery with a very simple composition, a tarantella of triplets and moody keyboard hits that flows directly into the first major event. “Profane” clearly aims to reclaim the spirit of the ‘Abyssic Cries From the Netherworld’ at greater intensity, echoing growls and steady mid-paced blasts almost appear to intentionally summon that early Mystifier sound but not drift too far from the hammer-and-key feeling of Master’s Hammer‘s ‘Jilemnický Okultista’. For my own taste the true magic comes when the piece lands on those blasted sections, specifically around the ~4:30 minute mark of the song where the riffs feature as a compositional high, a bout of mania where the head should naturally swing back in its ecstasy. True to their influences and with an ear for the experience rather than the norm, we reach the sixth track having only reached the second actual song. It already feels like a journey with character, a trip into the unknown with sinister vignettes of various design leading us deeper in. “Constantine” is a major highlight along the way, a piece that develops in the most uncanny and unexpected way as the rhythmic map begins to open into its second minute with a beat that must be directly influenced by one of my favorite records ‘…en their medh riki fara…’ the debut from Falkenbach. This isn’t to suggest the album has taken a turn for black/folk metal but that this jig has been manipulated to fit the quasi-Hellenic perspective, surrounded by melting, doomed heavy metal riffs that’d make a young Pyrphoros proud. We haven’t necessarily settled in just yet but the point should be made that Side A intends to go wherever it may and the whole of ‘Primeval Devilish Wisdom’ is not plain worship but a strong set of pieces that capture the narrative that presents myriad alternatives to Scandinavian importance in the early second wave.

The production and performances are yet heavily stylized towards this taste to a fault or a virtue depending on your own tastes. Guitars are distant yet clear with a psychedelic electricity swirling about, riffs are intentionally directive but never obtuse to the flow of any one piece. Drums emphasize crashes and cymbals up top and bass drums below making for a cavernous but never muddied throne. Bass is thankfully not ignored though probably not emphasized enough on the first half of the record. By the time we’ve hit upon the bestial black metal mania of “Burning” I’d admittedly found myself wont for an increasingly ‘epic’ wave of pieces as the album advanced, something different or indicative of a greater progression. This turn towards violence ultimately provides some separation and energy for Side B where the songwriting isn’t as demanding, the album surely doesn’t drag as a result. The next few pieces iterate on this energy to some reasonable effect where the Cultes des Ghoules-esque “Blasphemous” is intended to be a peak yet I’d leaned towards the insidious crawl of “Invocation” personally, pairing the two experiences in my mind for the sake of the dynamic created. I don’t think the album falls apart during its second half but seems to lose its thread of arrangement without a clear ‘peak’ in mind; If that peak was “Graveyard”, fair enough, though it only just matches the depth of the more substantial parts of Side A. It’d be too harsh to say the full listen is uneven, I’d instead suggest that the experience lacks key points of punctuation that might’ve formed a most complete statement.

Is the lasting joy or, greater value of ‘Primeval Devilish Wisdom’ primarily held within the high taste level in occult and arcane black metal suggested? To some degree, yes, the style it intends to capture is well spoken for here — They’ve gotten it “right” again despite the shift in focus back to their original intent, to nobody’s surprise their study remains apt. There is more value for the listener in soaking up the esoteric edges of the experience, the choices of guitar tone and the rhythmic modulation between pieces. This dynamic doesn’t depend upon forced naiveté to be effective and I don’t feel Apocryphal Revelation intend to dumb things down to hit style points along the way. In simpler terms, this shit is a legit good jam beyond sounding like some cool-ass bands. The feeling that you’ve connected to the will of the ancients and their ulterior second wave is yet spiritually intoxicating and a major draw as well. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Primeval Devilish Wisdom
LABEL(S):Nuclear War Now! Productions
RELEASE DATE:November 1st, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Black Metal,
Arcane Black Metal

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