Slave of Satan
posted on 5/2005 By:
Well-weathered doom fans already know: As far as true school doom metal goes, Reverend Bizarre have virtually no competitors. Few bands display as acute an understanding of the earthshaking lows, the bowel-loosening rhythms and the occult atmosphere that typifies the very finest magi in the genre. A power trio with all the hellish, brute force of a Toad or Dust, Reverend Bizarre have, over the course of two 73 minute records and a host of EPs, irrevocably set themselves apart from much of the doom n’gloom crowd. Bluesy like The Obsessed, ominous like Saint Vitus, mournful like Candlemass, Reverend Bizarre are proof that Finns don’t have to resort to My Dying Bride mimicry, or stoop to Thergothon and Skepticism replication. This being said, Slave of Satan, their new 21 minute single, is not entirely indicative of the sound they have sculpted over their career thus far. Do note this before I delve into a more in-depth discussion of this disc.
In some ways, Slave Of Satan can be seen as Reverend Bizarre’s take on Venom’s oft-lampooned epic, "At War With Satan". Of course, this functions much more as a singular song than said Venom track, which effectively was a cut and pasted pastiche of disparate ideas that strangely worked as a cohesive offering (one of my FAVORITE songs ever), but there are a host of similarities between the two. Anybody who’s paid attention to Reverend Bizarre’s career to this point are already aware of the rather deadpan sense of humor that permeates their otherwise impossibly dark output (“Wandering Jew”, where Albert proclaims “Jesus couldn’t even save his own ass” in commendably straight-faced fashion), and in some senses, as with Cronos and company, this appears to be a twisted manifestation of that humor. Yet, as with Cronos and company, the nebulous and incomprehensible strangeness of this offering lends it a garishly evil dimension, one that becomes more frightening each time you listen to it. Forsaking all the frilly tunefulness of their previous outings, this is Reverend Bizarre basking in their most self-indulgent moment to date, excavating expansive chasms of sound and scavenging the demonic depths of the power chord, jeering the listener as he tries to make some sense of the painful drudgery.
Opening with a collage of unearthly, torturous screams, repeated chants of ‘’Shemhamforash” and a rather involved reading of the immortal Black Liturgy courtesy of Daniel Nyman (Oak). Lingering chords bubble in the background as ritualistic drums and bloodcurdling shrieks erect a truly fearsome wall of sound, evoking the atmosphere of an elaborate Luciferian rite. A sparse bassline is introduced, striding forth in standard Reverend Bizarre fashion, ornamented with excruciatingly lead-footed percussion and sustained, bare guitar chords. Albert’s unmistakable voice is introduced into the mix- assertive and distinctive, powerful without being overwhelmingly dramatic. As the song lurches on, shades of Sabbath surface in the wandering, supple bluesy basslines, adding soulful color to the bleak proceedings and exemplifying the ‘’power trio’’ feel that Reverend Bizarre champion with such immaculate grace. 12:40 in, and Albert’s trademark wry sense of humor goes in for the kill- “He has got your soul…and there’s no way to get it back!/ What do you think…when you lie there on the altar/ Waiting for some ugly jerk/ To rape you as a sacrificial tramp/” GREAT!
It is rather apparent throughout the single that this is even slower than much of Reverend Bizarre’s typical material, the elephantine chords evoking a genuine sense of unease and fear, even while Albert’s lighthearted musings attempt to alleviate the nauseating gloom. It is also far more minimalistic and drone-oriented than a lot of their work to date, dwelling on the same four chords for what seems like an eternity as the Butlerian bass sporadically attempts to explore new territory, only to settle back into the lethargic crawl favored by the guitars and drums. The song is less dynamic and less lush instrumentally, Peter Vicar’s guitar lines are surprisingly bare and naked, Earl Of Void displays none of the virtuosity and subtle musicality that he flaunts on earlier releases, and Albert’s bass is the most developed/musical part of the equation, though even that is subdued in the interests of conjuring a hellraising, utterly despondent atmosphere. Somehow, even while missing several vital pieces of the Reverend Bizarre puzzle, this is still unmistakably Reverend Bizarre, and still utterly essential. Daniel Nyman comes back into the mix with a dramatically accented, hellraising reprise, closing out this sacrificial rite with an oath of loyalty to Satan. Remarkably, it is only in the last 40 seconds that the pace picks up, Earl of Void employing a galloping double bass beat to supplement the refrains of “Shemhamforash” and Peter Vicar’s frantic riffing. What the fuck?
Simply put, if you are at all interested in traditionally schooled doom metal (read: not shitty Katatonia wannabe pseudo-doom or horrific Skepticism and Wormphlegm ripoffs), this is probably already high on your priority lists. While lacking the variation and dynamism of a certain legendary Venom track, somehow Reverend Bizarre manage, with the same four repetitious droning chords and oppressively simple beats, to evoke the same cinematic, profoundly affecting and viscerally engaging feel that three blokes from Newcastle aroused many years ago. This is a trip you will want to take over and over again, a hypnotic, esoteric journey through hellfire that will simultaneously frighten and entrance you….yet the chaps aren’t even taking it seriously themselves! Look for their album II: Crush The Insects in June…it will likely obliterate.
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