OFERMOD – Mysterium Iniquitatis (2021)REVIEW

Endast döden är helig. — The tendrils finally find their way back in, a great black flame kerned into place between the eyes surges as the seedling of death worship grows. An previously inert darkness is wrenched alive by way of splayed-wide black wings. Stretched meat across the gods-damned sky emanating wavelengths of human disgust to the point of pain, a physical act of violence en masse to shatter away comfort from those standing too-tall. Infamous Swedish black metal entity Ofermod is the infectious sensation of the unleashed, the mind freed from the lashing clutch of worship to a ‘God’, a stabbing death to the axons of the religiously affected portion of the brain as a point of redemption. The key to the great and defiant wilderness beyond is implicated as ‘Mysterium Iniquitatis‘, the band’s fourth, or, fifth considering archival releases, full-length album which gifts us with a rescission from defeated temperament and erased human nature. After decades long self-directed cultivation of this medium for the purpose of channeling spiritual devotion to chaos, that which is achieved via clandestine study and violence alike, these Thagirion emanations continue to evolve and appreciate in the artist’s hands.

Ofermod is essentially Michayah Belfagor‘s artistic spiritual redemption beyond displeasure felt for ‘The Nightwinds Carried our Names‘, the debut full-length from his original black metal band Nefandus, who’d dissolve circa 1996 (reborn ca. ~2008). The release of that work, which is actually quite good if not unfocused, profoundly enlightened the artist toward notions of both artistic independence and quality control; That he must work with only the most talented musicians, must realize his own vision through a ritual semi-entranced state of compositional refugium and will only put his best musical ideas to print. These are the unspoken standards of the “Orthodox Black Metal” movement beyond ‘Mystérion Tés Anomias‘ (1998), a phenomenon which exists as a collective philosophic agreement between artists whom remain focused on genuine spiritual artifacts rather than commercialized black metal trash. We find a lot of the most classic, or, most revered black metal musicians within Sweden, most of whom were still inspired by the early 90’s impetus, were intent on redirecting their craft away from what was increasingly souring at this time. The superficial, cannibalistic craft at the end of that decade allowed antithesis enough to inspire some of the best Scandinavian black metal ever recorded, during this time you’d find bands often building upon the unspoken point of ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas‘ or ‘Heaven Shall Burn… When We Are Gathered‘ nearby. Point being that Ofermod was an important part of this movement though the public wasn’t so privy to their exploits compared to Ondskapt, Funeral Mist, Watain, etc. for a full ten years beyond that debut EP.

The timely classicism of ‘Tiamtü‘ (2008) is generally considered a defining statement from Ofermod but it was actually a rebuilt or, reimagined vision beyond the unreleased ’til 2020 ‘Pentagrammaton‘ (2005), together these releases effectively convey the original modus and vision of the band at its most strict adherence to this ideation of orthodox black metal songcraft, blurring the false separation between black/death idealism for the sake of an aureate, punishing experience. During the 2010’s the project released two albums (‘Thaumiel‘, 2012) and ‘Sol Nox‘, 2017) with a different vocalist, J.K. (Mortuus, Head of the Demon) aka longtime bassist Tehôm and these should be received as a palate expansion and a freeing from the confines of the previous decade’s movement. There are certain piece on ‘Thaumiel’ which I would even consider progressive black metal, if that term could ever make good enough sense. — Though the endless provenance available here might seem dry on my part few would consider the greater discography of this band as anything less than notable, this is important to note because there is little chance any pre-existing fan of Ofermod will approach ‘Mysterium Iniquitatis‘ with nothing less than the highest expectation, especially so soon after the non-bootleg version of ‘Pentagrammaton’ reignites the minds of those whom once again see the necessity of another wave of ‘orthodoxy’ so that black metal might retain strong-minded examples of its counter-cultural meaning rather than becoming part of the increasingly boring affront of late 90’s black metal imitation.

This fifth full-length from the project arrives with the potent-poisoned tip of its dagger offering reminder of the ancient attackers in the artform’s past but, with less a nostalgic statement and more an next step in Belfagor‘s shoes, which focuses on vigorous longform ode to sons of Belial, those of us who bear no chains. In musing upon the cosmic scale and symbolism of John Albin Hampus Ekberg‘s cover painting while listening to ‘Mysterium Iniquitatis‘ the purposeful theme and statement here seems to involve meditations upon the nature of forces pertaining to naturally heightened immorality and inequality in the anthropocene, depicting gradual dissolve into chaotic ruin and majestic upheaval in reaching for humanity’s endtyme through application of occult literate prose. This comes with the return of charismatic original vocalist Nebiros aka Leviathan (Malign, Mephorash) whom I believe voices all tracks with the exception of chorales from guests and a performance from Thomas Karlsson (ex-Shadowseeds, Dragon Rouge) near the end of “Loyal To Belial”. This is in sharp contrast to J.K.‘s performances on the previous two albums though the theatrical nature of the opener/title track does not shy back to puritanical twentysomething Satanic black metal precepts, instead incorporating expressive rhythm guitar work dynamic enough to scale into grand melodies without necessarily becoming decidedly “melodic black metal”.

The strong melodic voice of ‘Mysterium Iniquitatis‘ is presented in nigh classical movements to start, accentuated not only by clear-yet-aggressive rendering from Devo but also his prime bass guitar performance in prominent placement, arrangement and commanding tone; The rhythms are that much more effective in statement for this slightly percussive bass presence acting as the central brutality of each riff, accentuating each movement. With this in mind you’ll undoubtedly get a whiff of ‘At the Heart of Winter’ upon first contact with major album centerpiece “Inax Ya Lil” but only during a few points of refrain as the unforgettably achieved chorales demand the ear and throat join in, the bar is set quite high within these first few pieces and as Side A winds down with the decidedly simple, ‘traditional’ affect of “Arteria Uterina” the album was beginning to suggest a front-loaded experience. “Sacrosanctus” is likewise a fairly simple-yet-effective piece but one that is intentionally placed as the adrenaline and magia to introduce the second half of the experience, it remains my favorite piece on the album both for this effect and its infectious guitar arrangement/performances. My intuition that the high dramatism of the opening pieces wouldn’t persist had proven mostly correct once neck deep in Side B though “Consecration” and the aforementioned “Loyal to Belial” create a natural ramping up towards a grand spiritual finale. This all appears far less dead en centre-ville when listened to on repeat of the full listen, I’d found the best results came from 2-3 full revolutions in a row that’d at least amount to the focused, entranced nature of the most inspired arrangements herein.

My notes on the arrangements might appear sparse but this is for the sake of better emphasizing the ideology(s) at hand, the technical aspect of this music is accomplished but hardly the “point” and reaching these milestones of induction, immersion, and most severe flesh-rattling unease is instead much more valuable with consideration for the artistic goals of Belfagor. Much like recent records from Ondskapt and Funeral Mist a sense that the artist has grown but not dissolved their core design principles is felt here on ‘Mysterium Iniquitatis‘, this enriched aura is key sensation in acceptance of this record as serious canon in Ofermod‘s well-respected discography. Though my experience went from rapt attention toward wandering mind and then inspired within the build of the finale, I’d expect the greater takeaway of the album in motion is consistency in communication of this directional dynamic; As the mood and narrative shifts so do the performances themselves, because of this the first three pieces on the album will likely be the ‘hook’ to pull most in and the final four pieces on the album will mature in mind over the years to come as they provide the sort of ‘orthodox black metal’ ideation one might appreciate with the full discography of the band in mind. You’ve gotten the idea at this point, anyhow, a black metal album which reaches the high standards of auld without cheap derivation and with expanded personal signature. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Mysterium Iniquitatis
LABEL(S):Shadow Records
RELEASE DATE:December 3rd, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Black Metal

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