LEGIONEM – Sator Omnia Noctem (2020)REVIEW

The freshly persistent communal psychosis beyond waves of cheap hash and too-sacred LSD that’d been trickling from north-to-south Italy on the Adriatic coast during the late 70’s was surely a major characterization of the 80’s doom metal sound resultant. Yet it was the wisened culture created by progressive rock of the era that’d inform much of the sub-cultural musicianship that’d seed the yet underground and thriving world of odd-natured Italian traditional doom metal we’ve received in album form since, reaching some admirable peak in the mid-90’s. Without minding the jewelry heavy all-black fashion of the cult, the music itself retains the element of surprise, revelation, and subversion that’d made bands like Black Hole so memorable back in the day. If you know the sound that’d developed long before, and long after, then much of what Tuscan doom rock raiders Legionem bring to the table probably won’t feel as alien as it’ll seem to outsiders. That isn’t to say they aren’t outliers themselves working within tradition, though, as this second album ‘Sator Omnia Noctem‘ manages to keep it weird while correcting course via some of their own key influences from far abroad. The result is a traditional doom metal album that enters the mind estranged and brews into something dutifully exemplar and full of its own character in reflection.

Where do we start with the fate of this generation? The sins of their fathers! In fact Legionem sports members of Spartacus, a demo only epic heavy metal band from the late 2000’s that would develop in tandem with their continuation of their fathers work in Focus Indulgens dating back to the early 90’s. Taking this lineage and inheriting the spirit of their original progressive rock/doom metal philosophy, which was relevant to deep cuts like Arpia, The Black, and post-Black Hole group Epitaph yet appears as an unprecedented idea, not retaining the original members but their sons. This was a meaningful series of events and they’d gotten two albums out of it by 2011 followed by a hiatus where a 2015 demo was produced and soon after Legionem was formed as a quartet with a dedicated bassist and a different drummer circa 2016. As effective as it’d been to resurrect in the image of the past and make their own of it, Legionem now represents their own ideas in name and spirit. As they step into their own some of the old ways are still well represented with nods to 80’s Sabbath, and perhaps a bit of Paul Chain in spirit, yet you’ll probably be better served by L’Impero delle Ombre (or, Python) if you’d like slug n’ drug thickened existential dread — ‘Sator Omnia Noctem’ intends to push on briskly, turning on a dime in a short-but-punchy spaced out tarantella of ideation that touches upon Witchfinder General as often as it does early Slough Feg.

Blame an old obsession with Cathedral and/or Nocturnus whatever you may but I’ve long been a sucker for an evil riff accompanied by an electric organ, the effect is incendiary as it is charming and perhaps most so within the realm of traditional doom metal. Beyond the medieval folk incantation of “Flies” we’re sent buzzing down into this crypt via an absolutely smoking riff and its cathedralesque partner, humming and gasping with great efficiency throughout “High Spires”. Upon first listen the juxtaposition of chanting folk circle and red-eyed vicar metal with a few hits of double-bass drumming was instantly something special, if nothing else Legionem have displayed a knack for a well modulated pure doom metal riff and bizarro atmosphere right off the bat. Beyond this point we’re served something different at every turn despite the major focus being traditional doom metal, I don’t think it’ll read as related to this auld Italian classic horror meets prog rock just yet because we’re served the first hint of The Lord Weird on “Abramelin” via its impassioned chorus and shredding heavy rock leads. Around the ~3:15 minute mark we’re treated with the wisdom of the seasoned songwriter with a masterful transition into the apex of the piece that keeps the textural heaviness of the riff going but pushes towards a variant that they soon begin to speed unto the end. Of course the song could just blow by for you and still be enjoyable but taking a closer look at the structure of these pieces reveals some great consideration for each detail, each landing so easily because it is crafted and placed with intent. It is too easy to discover a lesser known band and gloss over their ideas as if they’re standardized or common, in this case Legionem deserve some credit for packing plentiful stylized ideas beyond the norm into a succinct set of songs. I’d have to do a full track-by-track to sing enough praises but we can consider “Christe Eleison” as the true apex of Side A and my favorite song on the album, which you can discover yourself.

No question about it “A Flush of Sulfur” will be a surprise when it hits. Clean-sung and gallivanting like a medieval lutist particularly proud of their lavender tights, the song pushes quickly into what I’d personally consider bit of ‘Twilight of the Idols’-era Slough Feg worthy folk metallic release. Of course they take it in their own direction with the main salvo of riff, which generally acts as the chorus, but this ends up being a defining moment for the album and a moment of severe tonal shift that will seem jarring on CD and more meaningful of you’d flipped a vinyl to its second side. The song gives life the album, feels appropriate in hindsight and keeps the spirits going into the second half of the experience — The placement of this moment is brilliant and the song features some of the best leads on the record. The psyche devolves from there as two of the more deeply tugging, slower doom metal pieces close out the album with “I Am Magister” featuring a stunning introduction and uh, “AEAJATMOAAMVMSGSTGJEZ” inverting our incendiary start with another keyboard-kissed gloom and fiery doom riff session. If we were to clip off the intro and outro pieces, which are cool “reset” points for the mind, the whole experience would only reach about ~31 minutes and although that seems a bit short for a traditional doom metal act it ends up being a perfect-sized statement, a reintroduction of Legionem at their most potent and inspired.

‘Sator Omnia Noctem’ embodies the weird progressive sheen of classic Italian doom metal without following suit and, as a result, discovering Legionem in the midst of being an esoteric bunch of weirdos by their own defiant will is a joy. I would implore fans of traditional doom metal and its shaggiest strange to take this as an unlikely gem in their belt this year via a moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (78/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Sator Omnia Noctem
LABEL(S):Metal on Metal Records
RELEASE DATE:October 31st, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Traditional Doom Metal,
Heavy Rock

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