Sunday, December 28, 2014

REVIEW: O Majestic Winter - Defiling the Serpent's Temple

I recently submitted a review on Metal Archives (my profile there is here) for O Majestic Winter's Defiling the Serpent's Temple, a great experimental Christian black metal album. I decided to share it here as well. 

(Edit: Thanks to one of this band's members, Gorlim, for the kindness and friendship since I wrote this review! Also thanks to the band for featuring the review on their facebook page!) 

There seem to be certain black metal bands, both Christian and otherwise, that people just generally respect. They may experiment a bit, but ultimately stay within slowly-established parameters. Thus, a "scene" is formed. The problem with this is, bands that go too far outside of those parameters don't earn the same respect, because their sound is too far out in left field to fit into an expected mold. In comes O Majestic Winter.

Clean vocals over distorted guitars, screams and occasional growls over slow ambiance, blasting drums, this has everything. Several different ideas can happen in the same song, and the production is demo-tape-level raw throughout. Contrary to how that sounds, a lot of "ideas" in this are surprisingly well-written. The piano and percussion section in Christ Is Lord There Is No Other works perfectly. The varied percussion playing over the symphonic ambiance in Caverns of Unspeakable Darkness couldn't possibly have been randomly strung together (as some suspect with this album). The faster sections here might be a little incoherent when the drums overpower the guitars, but see, that's not a problem to me. Besides, in the slower, more mid-paced sections, the guitar gets plenty of chances to come through with its raw, noisy tone.

Something that may put people off is that, regardless of how well individual sections may be written, this is a very random album. Extended sections of piano may lead back into more raw, noisy screech fests, and keyboards may or may not be playing under them when they are happening. On the other hand, with Caverns of Unspeakable Darkness for example, a period of seemingly deathcore-influenced black metal just randomly switches into relaxing string keys. Later on, the music picks back up, but the relaxing keys are still playing. (Speaking of which, "Watchtowers of the Holy Kingdom" has some -core like guitar chugging in the beginning!)

This album isn't perfect. A couple sections (mostly near the beginning) felt a little too out of place even for this album's standards, not really following the path the track seemed to try to be following. A little thing here or there could have been fine-tuned, like maybe a scream wasn't done that well or something, but those are minor and rare. And can be sort of forgiven, since it's their debut.

Overall, though? I absolutely love this. It's atmospheric and beautiful when it needs to be, and it's raw and in-your-face brutal when it needs to be, and it's both at the same time when it needs to be. This is the perfect album for me. Just when I get tired of one style, another one comes in and takes over. It's got that nice, demo quality Verdelger production, with plenty of artistic touches thrown in.

Recommendations are tough. I guess this is kind of like ambient black metal, so if you like that and you like faster, more brutal music, you might like this. If you like more normal styles of metal and are playing Metallica as you read this, you'll want to pass. Try Antestor or Crimson Moonlight for some good unblack worship metal. Now, if you like noisecore? You'll love this if you can take all the slower, ambient sections. If you like weird, obscure bands, this is the holy grail you've been looking for. If you're like me and find yourself switching from Dying Blaze to cheery keyboard-driven music? You absolutely need to hear this. I am fully aware that this isn't for everyone, but don't doubt at all that music like this has its audience.

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