Islamic Dissent: An Interview with Janaza

26/02/2012 § Leave a comment

“The government always check the CDs, and if they got me they would kill me.” It’s an extreme statement, but then Janaza, lead vocalist of black metal band Seeds Of Iblis, is in an extreme position. To say her situation is delicate would be an understatement, since Seeds Of Iblis’ lyrics are heavily anti-Islamic in content. For a female vocalist based in Iraq, things could hardly be more risky.

It took a few months to track Janaza down properly. Every person who she discusses her music with has to be able to guarantee their support. In order to operate in the underground of Iraq, explicit trust is necessary in her peer group. Janaza started listening to black metal back in 1998 with innovators such as Marduk and Mayhem taking the majority of her time, but since then her circle of friends has only widened minutely. Now, some fourteen years later, those she knows in Iraq who share her interests hardly reach double figures: “we are one group, two girls and eight guys, we share the same musical and thinking passion”. This would make most of us concerned for what her immediate family think of her pursuits, but she tells me candidly, “I lost my parents in the war”. Her musical peers now seem to form the bulk of her brotherhood.

‘Janaza’ is Arabic for ‘funeral’, a pseudonym which the vocalist has adopted for years. The word is a respectful term not just for the funeral ceremony though, but for the cadaver itself. Death is not only a heavy theme in Janaza’s lyrics, but a cold reality. If the authorities were ever to discover her true identity or her whereabouts, she admits she would do whatever’s necessary: “I will kill myself” is her frank reaction to the hypothesis.

Janaza first started playing music in the now defunct heavy/thrash metal project Desertor. The band came to an end in 2008, a tragic year in her family, but it was also the year that things started to make a creative leap forward in her life. “I’ve been always anti-Islamic, but my work [in] anti-Islamic black metal [started] in 2008 when I moved on with my life without my parents and when I had some help from my old heavy metal band”. After the tragedy of losing her parents in an explosion, her musical output became blacker and more vitriolic in tone. “After I lost my parents I knew some good friends, and they introduced me [to] black metal music in a very expressive way, so we did that and we express all of our emotions and hatred in it”.

By 2010 Janaza had abandoned thrash altogether and released her first demo EP “Burning Quran Ceremony” on the Columbian label Black Metal Rituals, taking care of all the instrumentation herself. Predictably the lyrics were hatred-fuelled, spiteful attacks on Islam, a religion which she constantly refers to as spouting “stupidity” and “lies”:

Arise… and fall… with fake… history
Rage… the wars… will start… soon
Scream… the truth… of gods… and fables
Remove… the thoughts… of religions… and lies

I shall peel your god!
With a middle finger in his eyes!
I shall fuck his mind!
And burn the Mosques of Islam!

Janaza certainly pulls no punches. If anything her dislike of Islam only seems to have intensified over time. “Burning Quran Ceremony” is replete with examples of her acidic dislike of Iraq, with burning mosques, the Holy Book and chants of “Islamic lies” being the staple of the lyrics. Soon it was time for things to expand, and merely a year later she had formed Seeds Of Iblis with Epona, one of her closest friends from Desertor, drummer Younes and guitarist Yousef, who also runs the Saudi Arabian black metal project Tadness [تدنيس]. Seeds Of Iblis set straight to work and in no time had released their first EP, “Jihad Against Islam” through the French label Legion of Death in 2011. I notice the impressive photos of the physical edition and wonder how the hell she managed to get them pressed or imported to Baghdad, to which she replies, “the label made the CDs and sold them around the world, but for me I can’t get my copies because it’s too hard… the borders won’t let them get inside”. Of course, she hasn’t even seen a copy of her own record.

All this underground networking doesn’t mean that Seeds Of Iblis hide their light [or darkness] under a bushel though. The band do play the occasional live gig, but of course, entry is exclusive. Up till this point I didn’t even know there was an Iraqi metal underground, but Janaza assures me that lashings of corpse paint guarantee her idenity isn’t exposed. According to her, Iraq is no less strict than Iran when it comes to dealing with the heterodox, or as she puts it, “the same shit is everywhere here”. I mention that it’s nigh on impossible to get unbiased news coverage of the Middle Eastern situation in the West and ask what it’s actually like in Iraq at the moment: how much have things really improved since the toppling of Saddam? Her reply is much as I expected – “everything here is fucked up, no safety and no money, and we always look at [the] West as the people [who] want our oil and people [who] always like to capture our land.” I posit, with total neutrality, if there’s a feeling of dislike to each country in the West: “for me I am in love with Westerners because I think they love freedom of thinking and living, but for Iraqi people, they dislike and mistrust the Westerners.” Once again, Janaza shows herself as being in the independent, strong-thinking minority

So what now for these ambassadors of Middle-Eastern resistance? It’s still very early days, but at the time of writing, Janaza has just completed vocals for Seeds Of Iblis’ second EP, “Anti Quran Ritual”. She’s been trying to secure a label deal but doing so seems difficult, for as she says, “no-one seems to be interested in it because it’s from Iraq”.

I’m sure it won’t be long until somebody picks it up though. What’s most important – and most lacking – in the underground is a sense of genuineness. Whether you agree or disagree with the anti-political and irreligious message that Seeds Of Iblis are putting across, as a listener you could hardly ask for a project born from greater sincerity. The bile in their sound is irrefutable, their motivation unignorable. As black metal becomes ever more an affectation, Seeds Of Iblis represent the true underground in a country which would damn them – and greater – if they were discovered. The inner voice of dark music is anger and repression, and no-one holds the right to these more than the Anti-Islamic Legion. As long as they can continue their legacy of secrecy, this has the potential to be one of the most interesting projects black metal has seen for quite some time.

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Botanist – I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From The Dead

08/01/2012 § Leave a comment

“Special ‘thanks’ to all those, real or unknown, who lacked the vision, commitment or ability to make a band happen with me” say the linear notes to this album. So Otrebor – otherwise known as The Botanist – decided to go it alone. This first offering from the black metal entrepreneur contains just three ingredients in the music: vocals, drums and hammered dulcimer. Black metal, for the most part, is not a genre known for taking immense leaps forward in terms of originality, so it’s refreshing to see a different instrument make its way to the foreground of a band’s sound. This release is a semi-autobiographical concept album which tells the tale of a reclusive sociopath known as The Botanist who lives in a lush, vegetation-filled environment called The Verdant Realm. Commanded by the demon Azalea, he creates an army of Mandragoras, known as The Mandrake Legion, to wipe out humanity and return the Earth to its rightful owner, nature. It is for this reason that The Botanist describes his own music as “eco-terrorist”.

This album comes in a double gatefold pack bearing, unsurprisingly, multiple drawings of plant life. I can only imagine that the specific identities for each picture were painstakingly chosen by Otrebor and bear a relevance to something going on in the album’s story. I can’t personally lay claim to any expertise in this area unlike The Botanist, who seems to spend all his time researching plant life when he’s not bashing away on his drums and hammered dulcimer. The lyrics are highly complex, and I’ll be honest, difficult to understand descriptions of the slow asphyxiation of the human race through environmental means. As verbose as they are verdant, I couldn’t help thinking this is what I’d be hearing if The Mars Volta ever got involved in experimental black metal. What doesn’t help is the rather small but elaborate font in which the lyrics are printed, making reading them a real struggle, but fortunately in this marvellous internet age there are various other – and more comfortable – means through which to view them. The Botanist probably wouldn’t approve, but you can’t teach an old Luddite new tricks.

There are actually two separate albums here in one, and you’ll no doubt have noticed the immense quantity of tracks, numbering forty in total. However, in spite of this large number the entire thing doesn’t go over 80 minutes, made possible by some extremely short track lengths. Most of the songs in this release don’t extend beyond two minutes, with some being a lot shorter than that. The Botanist’s vocals are some of the best I’ve heard in black metal – mid-ranged, guttural and spiked with a latent undercurrent of hatred. In a sense their timbre mirrors The Botanist’s state of mind – pained, angry but patient in resolve. His dislike for the modern world might well be vehement, but he has the time and forbearance to put his plan into action: when you’re commanding an army of plants, radical differences aren’t going to happen overnight. The album is all about gradual change after all, it is the slow unravelling of The Botanist’s plans, like leaves growing from a stem, which are mirrored in the lyrics and vocal delivery, though juxtaposed by the fast double kick drumming and pace of the instrumentation.

Let’s face it, the dulcimer is one of the main things which is going to attract people to this album, it certainty did for me when the promo was offered. It’s an extremely beautiful instrument and one which hardly ever gets a look-in in the metal world, but I can’t help feeling that it’s played with a good degree of limitation here. Black metal is a style suited primarily to guitars and drums, and transposing its style onto an instrument like the dulcimer just ends up crushing the quantity of that instrument’s output, like owning a mazarine butterfly but keeping it in a hamster ball. As a result, the dulcimer’s sound rings out beautifully in tone, but its notation is very limited indeed, being played more percussively than musically. The second thing which limits this album is the shortness of the track lengths. Hemming them in at around two minutes apiece doesn’t really give them room to move or breathe, and it’s in the longer numbers such as the five minute title track A Rose From the Dead when things really begin to take off.

In spite of this, both albums are highly interesting pieces of work, and some of the most unique stuff that black metal has come out with recently. My only wish is that Otrebor would give himself some slack with the track lengths; expanding them would, in turn, allow the creativity in the music to loosen up. The dulcimer is a wonderful addition in concept too, though at the moment it feels almost gimmicky since it’s not allowed the free reign it deserves, like a highly obedient sheep dog kept chained in the corner, dreaming of breaking free from its farmhouse and running uninhibited through the corn. In a way I’m reminded of the violins in Lake of Sorrow by The Sins of Thy Beloved: if you were to remove them from the music, you’d remove its only interesting element.

In my opening paragraph I referred to this release as semi-autobiographical for a reason. Like Lawless’s Jonathan in The Crimson Idol, Otrebor uses the identity of The Botanist as a thin veil for his own. Putting this album together in solitude and writing about the destruction of the human race gives me some clues as to his misanthropic mindset, and possibly why it was best that he attempted this project single-handedly. The power of the Mandrake Legion is obviously his exaggerated route for improving this planet, and one which I don’t entirely disagree with, we will all return to the Earth from which we came after all. With three more albums already in the works and nearing completion, I will be watching his progress with a keen eye. This double release is an admirable starting point, and I can only hope he continues on this path of creativity. Hopefully there are even greater – and more lavish – things to come.

Rating: 3.5/5

Svarti Loghin – Empty World

01/03/2009 § Leave a comment

Artist: Svarti Loghin
Title: Empty World
Label: ATMF
Genre: Depressive Black Metal

Track Listing:

01 Karg Nordisk Vinter
02 Inner Desolation
03 Empty World
04 The Silence Always Returns
05 Cold Void
06 Outro

Let no-one say that black metal doesn’t at least attempt originality. A lot of the atmospheric and depressive black metal that gets churned out of Sweden and Norway does end up sounding excruciatingly similar, but though Svarti Loghin shamelessly occupy the territory of Burzum worship, they do it with a small sliver of individuality. The band haven’t been together long, with only one rehearsal demo tape up their sleeve from 2007, and 2008 sees them starting their discography with Empty World, a generally innocuous piece of black metal with some sprinkling of character which keeps its head above water. Empty World doesn’t prove so much that depressive black metal isn’t dead, but rather undead, drifting through the musical mists of metal history with little aim or trajectory. In fact, sometimes it’s hard not a believe that a genre is kept afloat by purely its name alone.

No black metal album cover would be complete with some pictures of foliage, and Empty World doesn’t disappoint in this category. By now my CD collection must be looking more verdant than an almanac from the Horticultural Society and I’m sure the Chelsea Flower Show would be interested in one or two of the specimens found on the latest Drudkh and Xasthur. If I were wondering through the forests of Sweden maybe this would he kind of music that would be playing in my head but that’s the only setting that justifies its moroseness. According to the press release, the band are to become the point of reference for Swedish Depressive Black metal, so we can all look forward to more of the same from, well, more of the same.

It would be unfair to say that Empty World isn’t atmospheric. It has the ability to whisk you away to somewhere barren and hopeless, and its songs have soupçons of variety that make the band stand out from some other genremates. “Karg Nordisk Vinter” [a song about Winter, did you guess?] and “Inner Desolation” are pleasing enough with their accessible riffs, distant screams and lonely clean guitar passages, and the title track has a number of upbeat and even happy sections – unusual indeed for ‘depressive’ black metal.. The musicianship is of a relatively high standard too: all guitars and drums and played with aplomb, and the sound production is clear but still imbued with a sense of distance that often befits the black metal genre.

Though Svarti Loghin attempt to do something ever so slightly different with depressive black metal, Empty World still panders to the genre by trying to trounce it, and there’s little that’s guaranteed to produce emotion so much as a band which are forcing it. Empty World has the crushing emptiness and aura that so many black metallers will enjoy, but its an endurance for anyone who likes their music to have the slightest iota of soul. I’d like to think that future releases will show some departure from an already warn and overused template, but there’s too much root worship here for such potential.

Dylath-Leen – Insecure

16/06/2006 § Leave a comment

CD Info
2002
Label: Self-financed
11 Tracks
Language: English

Contrary to popular opinion, the French must be doing something right. It’s not often that I get to hear bands that come out of France, in fact, I could probably count on one hand that amount of French female-fronted metal acts that I’ve come into contact with. The French seem to do metal in a different way to a lot of other countries – there’s something more refined about it, something smoother and more crafted. I had never heard of Dylath-Leen until the promo came plopping through my door and the reason for this is that they appear to have been a very underpublicised band. Insecure – their only album to date – has been knocking around from one licensing to the next since 2002 and only now are they making a follow-up. However, Insecure is so good for what it is that I’m surprised the band are even trying to create a successor since it’s going to be a tough act to follow.

The band is named after a city in one of HP Lovecraft’s novels, and I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve always found something a bit strange about Lovecraft. For a start he’s called Lovecraft which makes his name sound like a pseudonym chosen by an ageing, over 60 erotic-novelist, and his books all seem to be about weird animals with lots of legs. I also don’t think that Dylath-Leen is a particularly memorable band name. Like Akphaezya, Tystnaden and Amphitryon it’s one of those names which the band has almost deliberately chosen so that no-one will remember who they are, though it will earn you a decent amount of points in Scrabble.

Fortunately, Dylath-Leen don’t seem to have fallen into the trap of countrymates Mordiggan by singing in French because, unlike Mordiggan, they’ve realised that singing growls in French sounds downright silly. You can’t say anything in French and sound menacing or tough, it doesn’t work. It only sounds as if you need a hug because you’re a little pissed off. All of the vocal lines on Insecure are in English, and they don’t come across as being in a heavy French accent either. As well as this, all the vocals on the album are taken care of by singer Kathy Coupez, and she has a remarkable voice. Unlike Cadaveria or Angela Gossow, the register of the growls is actually quite deep and there are parts, even though they are few and far between, when she sings in clean vocals, and she has a very good singing voice which is quite gentle and clear in tone. One couldn’t call this BnB since the clean vocals are very sparse but it’s obvious from the start of the album that we are in the hands of quite a talented death-metal vocalist.

What sets this apart from other death metal, apart from the obvious inclusion of the female singer, is that Dylath-Leen don’t pump their music full of blast beats and double kick-pedal drumming. A lot of the time the melodies on the album are quite slow and even groovelike but without ever slipping into the doom category. The music is also so dark in place that it could fit into the black metal class quite snugly. Tracks like Out, The Awakening and Offertory are the highest points of the album with guitars riffs that drive the songs on with groovy momentum and a sprinkling of clean vocals. However, it is Blood Is Thicker Than Water which is the albums’ high point with its rhythmic power chord riffing and a beautiful clean section in the middle. Indeed, in the clean moments, Kathy’s voice almost transports you to a dreamlike state since the contrast between the richness of her voice and the grave measure of the guitars is so stark that it seems as if the band have managed to meld two beautiful extremes into the same musical passage with honorary success. In addition, Dylath-Leen have managed to do something which a lot of death metal bands of the more progressive category don’t manage to do, and this is to keep the song lengths short. In a world where the odd death metal song can go well over ten minutes it’s almost a relief to see that no song on Insecure goes above five minutes, the only real difference being Criminal Art Extravagances, an 8 minute instrumental halfway through the album.

The band have now revealed that they have finished recording their follow-up album and I am very intrigued to see what this will bring. The clean vocals on Insecure are so good, so colourful and emotive that it’s a shame they feature so little and it would be good to see more of them on the next release. For a debut though, Insecure is a fantastic effort which is made more impressive by the punchy and thick sound production. Female-fronted death metal is almost a non-existent genre and Dylath-Leen are by far one of the most dark and skilful bands I have heard fill it. There is something grittily attractive about this album that keeps me coming back time and time again to bask in its devilish, sinister nature. Insecure’s lighter moments might be few, but its overall mixture of sweetness and gloom make for a transfixing and affecting combination.

8/10

Cadaveria – Far Away From Conformity

24/03/2004 § Leave a comment

CD Info
2004
Scarlet Records
9 Tracks
English lyrics

The first time I put this in the CD player I felt like I was about to be murdered. Far Away From Conformity kicks off like a mule that’s had a truckload of coffee. There’s no teasing you in gently, no soft intro, no calm before the ensuing tempest, it’s like someone waking you up by sticking a roman candle in your ear.

The Shadow’s Madame was a warm, almost melodic pastiche of black and gothic metal, however, this time round Cadaveria have made no bones and cut no corners with the kind of stuff they want to play. This is a band that are no longer creeping along gingerly in the wake of Opera IX, but who now seem to be screaming, “we’re going to play horrible, nasty, mechanical, edgy, gritty, die-hard horror metal and if you don’t like it you can fuck off and die. Yeeaaarggghh!!!” What a philosophy, but what a result. I was almost scared of this album the first few times I played it, but loving Cadaveria as I do, I was determined to work outside of my comfort zone and let myself be sucked in even further by its sensuality in spite of the fact that the album cover and my first impression of the music seemed to say pain, pain death and more pain.

Far Away From Conformity is certainly a step beyond The Shadow’s Madame. I thought things couldn’t get any heavier, or nastier, but I was wrong. However, Cadaveria have also thrown a little bit more variety into the mix, there are more tempo changes than before, more clean vocals than before, and even the odd bit of acoustic guitar [a nice gesture, but a little unconvincing]. In fact, there are so many tempo changes that it’s a bad idea to stay comfortable with the same line of music for too long. The first track, Blood and Confusion, is a ruthless rhino of a metal song, charging into you and pummelling you into a pulp with it’s heavy guitars and vocal screeches, though changing pace a couple of times and including some nice, almost rocky riffs. Eleven Three O Three moves similarly, taking off like a rocket, crash landing and taking off again before exploding in a violent shower of power chords at the end. Divine Rapture is probably the most eerie track on the album, with Cadaveria’s clean vocals hissing and bending snakelike round each other in the midsection and a glorious slow, heavy change of pace at the end. And that’s pretty much the theme of the album. All this and a cover of Blondie’s Call Me, for whatever reason, which unfortunately doesn’t do much for the original or for Cadaveria.

Something else got me by surprise here – I’m not normally one to notice the lyrics on an album, but occasionally I can’t help be impressed. I thought that given the structure and power of the songs, the lyrics wouldn’t be anything but angsty growls at ‘society’, but I was mistaken. Certain lines really proved me wrong, such as “bewitched by the eternal rhythm of divine breath, perverse he smiled to the prickly knock of rain drops…transfixed by an absolute lightning of freedom, he freed himself in an uncensored dance” and “feed on this embrace with love, respect and hope…entwine in a sacred knot the shining wefts of this harmonious desire…so that it can preserve itself and vibrate forever in magnificent poetry”. Cadaveria seem to have a lot to say, albeit about black magic, witchcraft and Satanism, and as a result I think a lot of this would go above most of our heads, but the poetry and sometimes the beauty of the words are in stark contrast to the gritty harshness with which they’re delivered, which makes it all the more alluring. Far away from conformity indeed. This was not the direction I expected Cadaveria to go in. I expected their next album to be something melodic but dark and something with more accessible riffs than the full-on, uncompromising guitar-fest that this is. Also, whatever Gothic elements were on The Shadow’s Madame have completely vanished from this album. Instead, Cadaveria have fused black and death metal here beautifully, and the result if undoubtedly striking.

This is one of those albums that, if you’re more into the Gothic side of things, you might really have to depart from your own preconceptions to enjoy. Sure, for some of you, the heaviness of this album might attack the very core of your essences to the point where you feel seriously ill, but those who actually go the distance will certainly not be disappointed by the myriad of dark delights on offer here. Don’t be dismayed, this is a seriously sinister album – a harsh, abrasive, undiluted solvent of heavy metal, ripe for abuse to your own detriment – but it’s scary how enjoyable it is. One of the best deals so far this year.

Cadaveria – Shadow’s Madame

19/11/2003 § Leave a comment

CD Info
2002
Scarlet Records
7 Tracks
English lyrics

There was bound to be a dichotomy in the reaction to Cadaveria’s solo album after her departure from Opera IX. The trouble with black metal fans is that they don’t like too much variety. As long as it’s gloomy, satanic and as evil as is plausible there won’t be too many problems. The only band that spends much time engaging in thoughtful reveries rather than full-on unsullied blackness that I can think of are Opeth, and since the Norwegian ‘underground’ is gummed up with all manner of tuneless garbage, this is no bad thing. I suppose if the metal your country produces is generally shit, you’ll get a fair amount of publicity if your music is even just above average, so good luck to them. However, what’s surprising about Cadaveria is that in spite of the fact that they are making a name for themselves as a quality black metal outfit, they aren’t from the world centre of black metal at all, but from Italy. But then the Italians are slowly acquiring a reputation for producing quality metal. That doesn’t mean that the rest of the black metallers will necessarily like this album, though. Not one bit.

And the evidence is everywhere. The female vocalist Cadaveria left her previous band, Opera IX, after disagreements about things she hasn’t properly discussed with the music press [probably more down to journalists not being pushy enough rather than her being evasive when the topic is addressed]. Barely a few weeks later, she and Flegias from Opera IX were getting underway and writing new material for the new band, named after her. It would not be unfair to assume that the new stuff was in the same vein as the old, and to perfectly honest, it’s not a world apart, though lots of those ‘true’ black metal fans would have my guts for garters for saying that. What Cadaveria does show on this album more than on the old Opera IX releases is the versatility of her vocals. She can scream, wail, growl and grunt. She just can’t sing very well, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem.

In addition to this, The Shadow’s Madame ends up fusing a handful of different metal styles, but in doing so shamelessly and unfailingly throws itself off the black metal bandwagon. The core of the music and the topics of the music are still rooted in black metal, but it has its Death moments and its Gothic moments, though there aren’t that many of them. Occasionally we’re treated to the odd drum blast or some half-hearted sampled choirs pasted onto the end of a song, but the heart of the music is black, and it suits the album well, because it’s what these people naturally do best.

The thing that is the most impressive about this instrumentally is the heaviness of the guitars. I’m a sucker when it comes to really thick and chugging heavy guitars and Cadaveria more than dish out their fair share here. At times the power chords are so viscous and caustic that you can’t help but be sucked in and enveloped by the darkness of their sound. And that’s exactly what this is, heavy, dark and evil. Anything else just wouldn’t do. Spell, Black Glory and Circle Of Rebirth being particularly good, with some nice rhythm changes and Cadaveria giving her [self-proclaimed] best vocal performance to date.

But this album’s strength is also part of its problem. It focuses a little too much on the canine-loving witchy femme fatale and her vocals, rather than the music as a package. Sure, it’s good and it’s heavy, but in spite of the different styles it encompasses, it really could do with a little more variety. The Death and Gothic elements are present, but just alluded and nodded to rather than confidently integrated, which is a bit of a shame, the result being that it gets a little sludgy after a while when it really should do more for itself. The classical inspiration is here also [I thought the metal mirroring of Verdi at the beginning of Spell was a nice touch], and this lot are competent enough musicians to let that effect and direct their music in the future. If Cadaveria can develop the ideas on this album to a more successful degree in their next work, we’ll all be treated to something pretty special.

Siebenburgen – Delictum

14/11/2003 § Leave a comment

CD Info
2002
Scarlet Records
7 Tracks
English lyrics

I really can’t remember what first possessed me to start listening to this band, what moment of madness or boredom, but I’m glad that I found them. Siebenburgen were around for a fair bit, creating stock, standard black metal, until they got on Napalm and got themselves a new female vocalist. That’s when things really started to change for the better.

The first thing that anyone should appreciate about Siebenburgen is the fact that they have a silly name. I couldn’t really take anyone too seriously if they said, “my favourite band is Siebenburgen”, if they didn’t say it ironically. Their name sounds too much like the noises made by the Swedish chef off The Muppets. And they wear that Kiss-esque make-up which makes them look like they’re wearing novelty Hallowe’en masks from a cheap party shop. However, in spite of that, they’ve come up with a good piece of work here, in fact, it’s very good.

The interesting thing about Delictum is it’s a bit of a dangerous thing to get hold of. Those of you who have pledged blind never to venture into the world of black metal for whatever reasons will probably find yourselves liking this more and more against your better judgement. There’s a very fine line between music like this and BnB such as Sirenia, which is pretty damn heavy anyway. It’s likely that if you’re a BnB fan, Siebenburgen could tip you over the edge into the darker side, and the chances are you’ll be grateful for it.

Siebenburgen’s previous efforts were dominated by Swedish lyrics, but Napalm obviously told them where they could stick those, and we all benefit as a result. Nevertheless, there is still one Swedish song on this album, and it’s a goodie. In fact, all the tracks here are. But what is it about this that could draw in the Gothic Metal crowd? Very simply, the inclusion of a female vocalist, and a damn good one as well. Before this album the female vocals were handled by Lavisa Hallstedt, and now the task is undertaken by Turid Waldenburg. An excellent choice indeed, because she has a sensational voice. Her singing is very pure and quite classical in its influences, and this gives the music a wonderfully haunting feel. She has no problems hitting the higher notes and slides around her vocal register with seemingly graceful ease. It really is a pleasure to listen to, and teaches you that no matter how heavy and fast the instrumentation is, it becomes just a softened backdrop against the beauty of such singing.

So in light of the fact that the female vocals are so flawless, it’s a shame they’re not on the album as much as they could be, and as a consequence the best tracks have their inclusion, namely the beautiful Storms, Opacitas, Thy Sister Thee Crimson Wed and Levande Begravd. The male vocals are also pretty flawless, perfectly competent and convincing, the production is first-rate and the musicianship is enviable. If you’re into the Gothic side, go further and take the next step, or if you’re already there, shame on you for not owning this. It should be a key feature of any black metal collection.

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