(The Dutch black metal band Asagraum released their second album digitally on September 13th and Edged Circle Productions will release physical editions on September 27th. What follows is a review of it by TheMadIsraeli.)
Over the last few years I’ve really made a turn-around on black metal as a style and have come to love it, but I’ve only settled on a particular bent. It has to really engage in that very meta-spiritual vibe of melancholic and enigmatic melody while retaining a sense of brutality and mercilessness. This has led me to more concise, more “lean” (for the lack of a better word) riff-driven black metal like Old Man’s Child, Nidingr, Naglfar, Dark Fortress, and so on. I like my black metal to definitely strive for peak musicianship, instead of relying on the gimmicks and the edginess the style sort of has a reputation for. If you can channel the sensation that your music is an attempt at invoking some kind of ritual or summoning, then that’s even better. That’s the sort of ritualistic take on black metal I’m very fond of.
Which brings me to Asagraum.
Asagraum are a band we’ve covered before on the site, a feminine power magick driven death machine who down-sized from a three-piece to a duo for the subject of today’s review, Dawn Of Infinite Fire. This album hits the kind of notes I look for, as described above, and the result is a sophomore record that’s excellently written and suitably twisted, both melancholic and authoritative in its sounds.
Opener “They Crawl From The Broken Circle” is the kind of violent invocation I live for, with a pretty sick opening — a tribalistic, primitive guitar drone and a staggered drum beat that surges into blast-driven mayhem. It’s punctuated by reprieves of groove, driven by seductively insidious chord progressions and an air of pomp and circumstance that’s engrossing. The blood-curdling banshee wails of Hanna Van Den Berg (or Obscura, her black metal moniker) fit the atmosphere and mood of the music exceptionally well. She’s one of the most powerful voices I’ve heard at attempting this vocal style while managing to avoid sounding ridiculous or cartoonish. She’s just straight overpowering.
What really sells this album in the long term, though, is the complete library of weaponized audio invocations that is the track list. Almost every style or take on black metal is explored here, whether it’s what I described earlier, a purely melodic kind of doomy black metal, or just pure blast- and tremolo-pick-driven mayhem. The D-beat-driven “Abominations Alter” is a definite favorite, along with the sinister but proggy title track and the relentless blast-propelled abyss-gazing of “The Lightless Inferno”. “Hate Of Satan’s Hammer” is also just a straight-up explosive and grotesque brutality display, once again channeling that brutal but ritualistic amalgam I spoke of earlier.
Dawn Of Infinite Fire is definitely a favorite black metal record for me so far. It’s excellently written, explores a wide array of the nuances of its genre, and does so without what feels like the slightest bit of compromise or loss of identity. It’s the modern school of black metal done at its finest, a pure, un-distilled and disciplined hate-summoning.
Really digging this, the Dark Fortress name drop is spot on!
In a vicious fight for the Top 10 this year, Asagraum is slowly crawling their way up the ranks. It’s an album that both easily digested and with a lot of staying power.