Album Review: Black Altar / Kirkebrann - Deus Inversus
Reviewed by CJ Claesson
Even if you’ve never heard of Black Altar or Kirkebrann (Norwegian for Church Fire) before, these nomes de guerre are anything but deceiving. Bound in blood to the black, these two unique elite entities have joined forces on a ferocious split record, demonstrating the true essence of underground black metal.
I must admit that I am not the biggest fan of split records. Broad statement, I know. I’ve come to find that the two sides usually aren’t equally strong and there’s often a general inconsistency between the acts. However, ‘Deus Inversus’ really challenges my preconceived notions of splits as Poland’s Black Altar and Norway’s Kirkebrann unite in unholy matrimony on this record. Consisting of seven compositions (unevenly) split between the bands you get a dose of malicious black metal representative of the two nations. What really sets this record apart from a lot of new releases of the genre is how digestible, relatable, yet interesting the music is. Without entangling myself in an array of black metal terminology faux pas, it feels modern but with a deep-rooted spirit of the old, cold and grim.
Black Altar is in pole position (no pun intended), which might be due to seniority having been around since 1996, versus Kirkebrann’s disentombment in 2004. Already in the intro you get to experience the hefty bottom end production which permeates Black Altar’s three contributions in the best way possible. The title track ‘Deus Inversus’ unleashes uncompromising blackened metal, reminiscent of ‘Storm of the Light’s Bane’-era Dissection and contemporary Behemoth, complete with virtuoso guitar parts and malevolent choir chanting. Second track ‘Ancient Warlust’ continues on the same path, blending melodic riffs with a vicious wall of sound and knocking it out of the park with a surprisingly catchy chorus. Horns up! The final score ’Outre’ is perhaps nothing you would add by itself to your playlist, but it masterfully ties the two prior songs together perfectly.
Light your matches, it’s time for Kirkebrann.
In true Norwegian black metal essence, we’re faced with a rawer, colder and grimmer production on the second part of the split. To be fair, in comparison to classic TNBM releases (I’m looking at you ‘A Blaze In The Northern Sky), this is very high-end. Kirkebrann serves up a headbang friendly dose of black metal, of course unmistakably Norwegian, for fans of ‘Volcano’-era Satyricon and Taake. ‘Begrensa Bevissthet’ starts off with a pounding drum intro and launches the listener into the unforgiving and diverse Norwegian black metal soundscape. Next up is ‘Faux Pas’ which demonstrates traditional black ‘n roll qualities. It might not be something new, but the delivery is impeccable, making it a song you wouldn’t easily get tired of. Kirkebrann manages to demonstrate the wide diversity of black metal in their contributions. This becomes evident when entering the realm of ‘Et Nederlag’ which I’m sure any avid black metal fan would deem more “traditional” sounding. The violent blast beats, together with dueling guitars over forceful sweep picking and the intensity of the Norwegian lyrics makes this song complete. The last song ‘Ufødte Klarhet’ comes as a bit of a surprise. It’s an acoustic piece which I am not even going to attempt to decipher. It’s resembling old traditional Scandinavian folk music, which doesn’t come as a surprise itself given the origin of the band, but it’s something I haven’t heard on a black metal record before. You just have to go listen to it yourself.
‘Deus Inversus’ is a great split to either expand your perceptions of black metal or to indulge in it. The record manages to show off the best qualities of black metal from two genre-defining countries and also highlight the differences which makes them unique and equally interesting. Black Altar and Kirkebrann – individually immense, together invincible!
‘Deus Inversus’ out via Odium Records on June 30th