A shared opinion around our circles seems to be that 2016 has started out in a fairly lacklustre manner in terms of killer metal albums. Save for a few notable releases, most people agree that 2015 had come out of the gates quite a bit harder in its first quarter. For me, those releases so far have been Skáphe, Bhavachakra and Ifrinn. While I wait for those scheduled for later in the year or something new to catch my eye, I’ve been revisiting some stuff that I should have paid more attention to during the late heavy bombardment period of 2015.
In between peeling back the layers on gems like Awe’s Providentia, and digesting all the damn riffs on Grafvitnir’s Necrosophia, I’ve been sampling some fine French offerings, such as Temple Of Baal’s Mysterium and today’s subject VI’s De Praestigiis Angelorum. This is an album which I’d seen the cover of a few times but couldn’t really recall much talk about. This shall be remedied, for De Praestigiis Angelorum deserves some time in the limelight. Featuring members of respected acts Aosoth and Antaeus, VI bring a certain degree of clout to the table and shouldn’t disappoint even the most discerning listeners.
Having only released an EP and a split since their inception in 2008, De Praestigiis Angelorum is the band’s first attempt at a full-length, and I think it’s fair to say they knocked it out of the park. The 8-tracks on offer clocking in at close to 45 minutes, full to the brim of turbulent contemporary black metal, replete with luxurious production that shines with spirit rather than sterility. After the short (1 minute) introduction, the album takes off and never really loses stride. I don’t normally choose a stand-out track to feature but I feel it is relevant with this particular release, as to me, the album feels like it builds towards the middle. In that sense, Tracks 4 (“Regarde tes cadavres car il ne te permettra pas qu’on les enterre”) and 5 (“Une place parmi les morts”) could be seen as centrepieces to this exquisite composition. The former encapsulates much of the album’s overall style and intensity during its 7 minute barrage. The final flourish that follows the brief orchestral ambient passage after the 5:00 mark is a remarkable display of De Praestigiis Angelorum‘s balance between complexity and aggression. Hear for yourself below.
Throughout the album there are ample layers of melody. Somehow, VI manage to not let this hamper the ferocity of the songs. This is achieved through their note selection. Contrary to the prevailing norm of melodies falling into either the triumphant battle-like category or the more common melancholic and sullen side, guitarist INVRI utilises a more equivocal sonic palette. Creating melodies that somehow feel tonally ambiguous yet remain evocative. Perhaps the desire for resolution is one of the reasons why I keep coming back to this album so frequently, regardless of my mood. It would be remiss of me to not mention the exemplary drumming on the album. The percussion is just as impressive as the fretwork throughout. In some sections it all but steals the show all together. Drummer Blastum lets rip with some furiously energetic beats adorned with astute use of dynamics, particularly with his cymbal-work, where shimmers and muted stabs keep things appealing.
From personal experience, I can tell you this album goes well on a playlist with the aforementioned Awe, Devouring Star, Deathspell Omega, Abyssal and of course Aosoth, but I don’t think it’s quite fair to assume it sounds incredibly similar to any of those bands. Also, as a side note I think this has the potential to please those who enjoy Iceland’s Nadra. De Praestigiis Angelorum deserves to be unleashed upon your senses and given your full attention as one of the finer releases of 2015, so join us and spend the next 3/4 of an hour (re)visiting something special.