The infinite inspiration of Satan, granted only in the most remote and untouched ancient places, once again graces the hidden cult with a fourth grimoire of phantom aphorisms and theatrically charged black metal accompaniment from Athens, Greece-based constituency Medieval Demon. Daggers raise in tormented rituals, ancient minds whirling forth continually renewed vortices year-over-year in their state of willing possession as ‘Black Coven‘ appears unto the public ear as a third stage of the vessel’s ascension since returning roughly a decade ago. In the truest tradition of the artform their proposed locus sustains its evil-eyed gaze yet the resulting musical haunt is ever changing, ever improving in the hands of these veterans for the sake of works molded to embody the time and place from which they were called forth. From mournful incantation to spirited dance within a storm of funereal souls unleashed, this promises to be their best work to date yet still one solely intended for the unspoken cult.

An official entity as early as 1993 and dormant beyond their Unisound released 1998 debut LP Medieval Demon‘s history is well-trodden enough in these halls as I’d reviewed their second (‘Medieval Necromancy‘, 2018) and third (‘Arcadian Witchcraft‘, 2021) full-length releases in recent years — each favorably for their cult Hellenic black metal aspect and the spirited evil heavy metal which invariably guides their work. Though I don’t recall how much of the second LP was built from old unpublished works and ancient ideas the suggestion in 2020/2021 was that the band’s third record pulled in some manner of pre-‘Demonalatria‘ (1998) ideas and this’d produced a different feeling record entirely, one which’d also found the band joined by bassist Jim Mutilator (Yoth Iria, ex-Varathron) who returns for this album. The methods used in sourcing ‘Black Coven‘ aren’t mired in iteration, wherein the band exiled to rurality and nature to commune with the dark woods for their rituals, yet the horror-dramatist personae of the band remains steadfast.

Well-balanced production values might find this album a bit more readable, odes to various timeless entities might add to the amount of variety on hand this time around, and it’d be fair to suggest this is perhaps the most sophisticated release from the band to date but the feeling of classic 90’s black metal is still the major chunk of this band’s voice. None of these observations betray that core sound, which yet lands with shades of early Greek black metal rhythmic a la Rotting Christ (see: “Black Coven”), the dark heavy metal spiritus of Denial of God or alternately Mortuary Drape (see: “Nocturnal Sacrilege”), and the keyboard enriched horror haunts and second wave classicism of Abhor and/or Empire of the Moon (“Sylvestris Deus – Protector of the Forests”). That isn’t to say that Medieval Demon sound exactly like any of those groups but that purveyors of late first wave horrors and the second wave Satanic perfectionism of the undead symphony will appreciate the high standards of ‘Black Coven‘.

More than ever we hear tribute in mourning within Medieval Demon‘s work, the spirits of the lost seemingly crystallized within the eye-widening muse of opener “Where Witches Dwell and Labyrinths Confuse” wherein all previously mentioned traits combine to introduce ‘Black Coven‘ with great purpose and irreverence for the smoke-shrouded tree line that surrounds their ritual at night, richly sonorous organs wheezing like wind through broken cathedral windows. The title track is so elegantly waltzed into beyond the opener that it’d struck me as uncanny, an unreal moment which thankfully eventually finds its hammering beat at the ~3:00 minute mark and reminds us we are yet in the outskirts of Athens after all. “Black Coven” itself was enough to immerse and impress on my part, I know this band’s work quite well and the eight minutes of this piece is exceptional example of not only what they do best in tempering the ‘typical’ expectations of Greek black metal with their own unique atmospheric ideas, saxophone and all. While I believe Mutilator has helped to elevate the possibilities of songwriting it is clear that Lord Apollyon was inspired within these most detailed, considered sessions.

The feeling begins to intensify that this thread could go bigger, perhaps pressing on for a couple of hours even as the theatric values build song-over-song, but I am glad they’ve kept it to a well-rounded ~40 minutes that leaves that momentum lingering. “Sylvestris Deus (Protector of the Forests)” is essentially the energetic peak at the top of the ramparts, the sorcerer’s whip of flame at the apex of carnage, and a great example of all of all constituent parts of Medieval Demon serving larger than life sounds with these of course fitting in with the peak mid-to-late 90’s black metal vernacular, trailing-on tremolo picked riffs and ethereal keyboards eventually dominating the larger rant of the piece. From that point the album cannot help but continue to elaborate upon this sophisticated sound, reaching an almost progressive touch on the saxophone embellished rise of “Baptismal Blood” and its brilliant piano runs and discordant tarantella inspired hits of speed. The more doomed stomp and well-chosen variety of piano, organ and keyboard tones used on “Katavythisis” help to keep this thread going albeit with a different mood in mind.

The thought on my part at this point in the running order, and after at least ~twenty spins of the record, is that this varietal, cinematic thread with traditional black metal ideals in hand speaks well to Medieval Demon‘s evolution beyond the one-track mind of early 90’s black metal followership (generally speaking) into a voice which has spoken a clearer, more unbounded macabre tale since returning to view in 2018. This is rare among those who’ve returned to extreme metal authorship after such an extended break, and the fire admirably appears filly lit herein. In this sense ‘Black Coven‘ is the new peak of this process of rebirth aimed at mastery as their craft becomes all the more essential with each scene illustrated. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (83/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Black Coven
LABEL(S):Hell’s Headbangers Records
RELEASE DATE:September 16th, 2022

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