BLACK BEAST – Arctic Darkness (2022)REVIEW

Bearing the bestial mark, surging with glorious obsidian energy faraway from the latest apocalyptic wars of dreg-lead and trash-mobbed society Finnish black metal quartet Black Beast represent a creature of darkness, exiled by choice in service to none but their own purposeful tradition-driven singularity. Thrashing, drooling, and creeping-out the hall ‘Arctic Darkness‘ is an album which does not attempt to ‘keep its cool’ in celebration of pure black metal idyll but one which embraces its own fandom in contribution. With unhindered enthusiasm a stroke of one hundred classicist ideas are compressed into a representative work which could only come from an artist who is foremost a passionate fan of darkest mayhemic music. It’d be false to suggest they’re playing to the crowd here, though, as the experience is well-rounded in order to cover myriad basis for inspiration. Some of this finds the band veering into the expected realms of Finnish black metal’s sometimes rocking, lustful, and oft riveting traditions yet at no point do they resist venturing beyond the forest for enrichment. All of the necessary nodes of a well-seasoned black metal ear will be treated with well-vested interest in the sub-genre’s core statement from advent ’til the mid-to-late 90’s at least.

Formed by Infernal Tormentor Necrocorpse von Demonblood and Ruumisruhtinas circa 2002 as an outlet for “pure Nordic black metal” which soon translated to a well-received black n’ roll tinged (or, just first wave influenced) self-titled mLP circa 2005 that’d been followed by a split with Bloodhammer before the group rescinded to the shadows. The passion of the antichrist eventually returned and Black Beast would finally achieve their major goal on the growling, graven ‘old school’ black metal debut (‘Nocturnal Bloodlust‘, 2019) which I’d given short review of upon release suggesting their approach had been “clearly striking at the old forge, a sort of back to the roots statement we’d heard more from Finnish black metal in the early 2000’s.” That much still appears to be true here with this follow-up a few years later. Now a quartet with a dedicated bassist and some keyboards flossed throughout their teeth these folks aren’t as concerned with the sheer brutality of olde overall this time around, though the same cumulative mindset arrives with some structural refinement and a few nods to melodic black metal as they soldier on. Needless to say the urgency of the debut is here on ‘Arctic Darkness‘ but the production values appear intentionally more distant, cold and thrashing in a circa ~1994 mindset, at least from my point of ear.

That isn’t to say that they’re flogging the Norwegian classics too hard for black blooded ideas, moreso picking up the thread of rocking freneticism found on their first 7″ to start, as we’ll find on opener “Black Magic and Witchcraft”, a piece which updates their original path with some mild emphasis on their Motörblack interest which’ll reprise later on in the running order. ‘Arctic Darkness‘ goes many places beyond that point, you’ll not find any two tracks which approach classicist black metal in the same way in concurrence as you ride through this nearly fifty minute record. This sense of variety keeps the experience wildly listenable, repeatable and likely engrossing even if there’ll be no shock, surprise or surreal innovations on hand. That just isn’t what this stuff is all about, anyhow.

There are smaller details within each piece here that help differentiate into standalone value and generate a perceived mastery of many forms. To start the Immortal-esque strides of “Fullmoon” and punkish rush of “Sadistic Act in Demon Lust” kick up the pace, throwing in the odd orchestral hit, stomping black-thrash riff before leaning into melodic leads and ethereal keys to extract the most out of the moment. The most ‘heavy metal’ song on the album to start, “Sadistic Act in Demon Lust”, shatters the idea that this’ll be a tunnel-visioned album, featuring at least one of the strongest riffs on the first half of the record. With this shell cracked “Four Days in Paradise of Fornication” follows with their rocking ‘Suomi Finland Perkele‘ side, what I’d consider a blasting n’ roll piece. Of course I could go on tossing small appreciative quips in description of each song, such as the excellent nods given to ‘Far Away From the Sun‘-era Sacramentum on “Night of the Arctic Darkness” per its strong referential transitional riffs or the ear-catching “Summon the Angels” which works a cold melodic phrase in luminance next to a sort of blackened speed metallic rock hook or two, which should again recall the focus of their earlier work alongside an emulated horn surge lending an early pagan black metal feeling to the piece. The bigger point to make is that this one’ll keep you guessing even if Black Beast have been consistent with their own sound throughout.

Maybe you’re here for the decidedly Finnish aspect of their sound, as I was, and that’ll be a tougher call to pinpoint though I’d felt “Summon the Angels” and “Depths of Damnation” make the strongest argument between nowadays revisionism and classic inspiration. Again there is a bit of everything fighting for attention on the full listen so focusing on regional reference is generally moot per any serious point made. The point I will make, which’ll ideally resonate most with any dedicated black metal fan, is that we’re often fed 90’s black metal themed nostalgia in heaping spoonful of 1% gold and 99% worm-filled shite though I don’t find work of Black Beast as any such exploitative of generational milling of the good ole days into product but, again, more of a celebration of a lifetime’s worth of fandom which stops short of tribute before loading up the free corners of the mind with their own speed metallic/early second wave abandon. It ends up being a well-rounded and entertaining full listen which I’d comfortably slapped on repeat for hours on end across many sessions, suggesting some lasting value should persist in a classics minded collection. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (78/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Arctic Darkness
LABEL(S):Primitive Reaction
RELEASE DATE:November 25th, 2022

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