Black metal has easily become one of the ripest sub-genres in all of metaldom. Depending on where you happen to be treading in the twilit kingdom of black metal, you could find yourself traipsing through a gentle mountain wood (à la Agalloch), waging war against infernal enemies alongside an army of effeminate Orlando Bloom look-alikes with pointy ears (with Slechtvalk), locked in a coke-addict’s torture dungeon (as displayed by Spektr), or you could be following Virgil through the fel wastes of the abyss while Blood of Kingu hammer out infernal deathly black music as your soundtrack. Take my hand and walk with me through the nine circles of hell in Blood of Kingu’s newest release, Dark Star on the Right Horn of the Crescent Moon.
Blood of Kingu hail from the far off and tumultuous land of Ukraine, and this nefarious gang has been peddling arcane, death-metal-enhanced black metal since 2005. I was a big fan of the band’s previous effort, Sun in the House of the Scorpion, so when Dark Star popped up for a stream, I instantly seized upon it. What awaited me was a vision of fire and brimstone that is both harrowing and utterly enchanting.
On BoK’s third release, Roman Saenko and co. have eschewed the folky follies of Saenko’s other black metal act Drudkh, in favor of a full-on aural assault. Be forewarned; Dark Star is a demanding listen as wave after wave of molten, crushing tremolo riffs crash over you relentlessly and submerge you into obfuscating pits of darkness. The vocals here are unintelligible, but if you could understand them, you would probably hear Saenko growling like the mouthpiece of Dis about Babylonian (from whence the band draw their name, in addition to the excellent Vader song) and Egyptian mythology. The song titles and vocals are perfectly suited to the eldritch content contained therein.
However, what’s most intriguing about the vocal work here is the intermittent use of Tibetan throat singing that sets this album apart from many other black/death bands. These low, droning emanations produce a shamanic effect in several of the songs, conjuring images of a dark sect of cultists dancing in the moonlight round some flaming totem, invoking horrors unseen. These chants are a welcome and engaging addition that submerse the listener beneath the waves of crashing tremolo and draw you ever deeper into the abyssal landscapes in a ritualistic trance.
There is a lot to like about this album. The trem/blast combo is both exhausting and engaging, bringing the heaviness in spades. The vocal work, including both the growls and the chants, hang in the mix like some demoniacal ignis fatuus, creating the perfect nocturnal atmosphere. I think the mix and production on this album are perfect for baptizing you in the river Acheron, with no one effect dominating the mix while maintaining a good balance of murk and clarity. Plus, the album is not overly long (unlike some other recent black metal releases), only dragging you through the furnace for a brief period (and even offering you a slight respite along the broken path).
That said, my one complaint about this album is that some may not find enough diversity here. To my ears, the songs blend together to create a macabre tapestry, but it is hard to pick one stand-out track. Others may also find the endless tremolo/blast assault daunting, but to them I say, “Toughen up, Buttercup.” I dig this expedition through the abyss, and you should too.