This is the second of three brief reviews I’ve written for posting today, giving attention to three new or forthcoming short releases that I’ve really been enjoying. This one covers an EP entitled Beautiful and Damned by a Danish band named Slægt, which will be released next month by NecroShrine Records and Iron Bonehead Productions.
I’ve had the advance copy of this EP sitting in my queue of things to listen to for a while, but when I happened to see that BOTH Metal Sucks AND Stereogum’s “The Black Market” column had praised it, I thought I ought to pay attention to it. Because seriously, how often does that confluence of opinion happen?
Beautiful and Damned is Slægt’s first release since their debut black metal album Ildsvanger, which appeared early this year — though the music is apparently quite different from that album (which I haven’t heard), as is the fleshed-out line-up. Though remnants of black metal still adorn this new music, the band have incorporated a fascinating blend of other styles that makes this EP unusual, and unusually good.
While there are moments of high-speed black metal ripping and tearing here and there, along with a medium-weight coating of gritty distortion in the guitar tones and a vocalist who utters the lyrics in an echoing, demon-panther snarl, this is a guitar-driven album that’s loaded with magnetically attractive melodic hooks.
The band have a genuine talent for establishing melodic themes in the songs and then proceeding to spin out variations on them, with riffs and lead-guitar refrains that have as much in common with classic rock, classic metal, and prog rock from decades past as they do with black metal. Though there’s still an air of the occult in the music, it often has a theatrical quality, like an infernal cabaret that’s been whipped into a hard-driving frenzy, slowing here and there to provide space for an array of gorgeous dual-guitar harmonies and scorching solos. Just as often, the songs sound like hard-charging anthems.
With the band’s emphasis on immediately infectious melody, their precocious talent for song-writing, and their contrasting use of harsh, savage vocals, I was reminded of the latest Tribulation album — which is intended as high praise rather than any implication of mimicry. Even the one brief instrumental track on the EP — an acoustic guitar duet named “Church of the Night”, which also includes something like the whistling sound of birdsong — is a stand-out. And though it is more bright and light-hearted in its tone than the other three tracks, it sounds as if it belongs.
Let me repeat: This is an unusually good EP that I have no doubt will draw a legion of fans the more word about it spreads. I’m now very anxious to hear what Slaegt come up with next.
A CD version of Beautiful and Damned will be released via NecroShrine Records in November 2015 along with a tape version by Iron Bonehead. Iron Bonehead also plans to release a vinyl edition in January 2016.