Published Jul 22, 2015For all its necrotic weirdness as a genre, one thing black metal rarely suffers from is an identity crisis. From the commitment to raw production values and virulent blackbeats to nazgul-with-strep-throat vocals, most black metal knows exactly what brand of extremity it is on about. This is what makes Sermons of Death so puzzling: it seems to be two different records.
The album opens, closes and is bisected by smoky, low-key ambient tracks that convey a creeping, occult grimness. These passages are more texturally layered that the rest of the record, which snaps out of these ritualistic moments and back into the whiplash intensity and filthy production of classic black metal with breakneck speed. Once the record is careening forward, it's quite good — "Defloration of the Holy Cunt" is a particularly fun track — but its wild mood swings make it difficult to settle into.
I can't help but think the straightforward grotesqueries of the aesthetic wouldn't have been better served had the album simply been an EP. (Amor Fati Productions)