“A Chance to Recapture…”
Although I have heard of Hecate Enthroned before, I had never actually listened to them until Jason asked me to do a review of their newest album, “Virulent Rapture”. At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about the album, but it has grown on me, and I have come to appreciate how much variety is contained in this single album.
The first thing I noticed about Hecate Enthroned was, of course, the symphonic aspect of the black metal. When I went to investigate on Encyclopedia Metallum, Cradle of Filth were listed under bands that Hecate Enthroned “sounds like; “ I disagree, as the orchestra hits in the keyboards remind me more of Mustis-era Dimmu Borgir. The vocals also do not sound like Cradle of Filth. Vocalist Elliot Beaver alternates between black metal screeches and growling, which adds a lot of unique texture to the sound. It almost feels as though Hecate has two distinct vocalists, a concept popular in death metal and grindcore but not a sound you hear often in black metal. Also, it’s worth noting that not once did Beaver’s vocals make me want to stab myself in the ear with an ice pick, which is something I cannot say about Dani Filth’s screams.
I really like Hecate’s style of symphonic black metal- it’s not overly cheesy, and the symphonic aspects don’t drown out the metal, which are typically my biggest beefs with the genre. Along with the orchestra hits, like those on “Unchained”, Hecate also incorporates some lovely piano into their keyboards. “Plagued By Black Death” opens with a lovely piano solo on which all the other orchestral parts in the song are thematically based. It’s nice to see the keyboards utilized in a range of ways as it provides different parts of the album with different textures.
Virulent Rapture also features other twists on traditional symphonic black metal. The last three songs, “Of Witchery and the Blood Moon,” “Immateria,” and “Paths of Silence”, feature acoustic guitars throughout, instruments rarely used in black metal. Likewise, certain songs stick out as putting a whole new spin on the genre; “Life” is an odd mid-tempo track that opens with keyboards in the vein of atmospheric black metal and has an almost post-black metal feel to the melodies.
The production on Virulent Rapture is excellent – a smooth sound that allows for the keyboards to be heard. However, the mixing on the album is such that the keyboards do not dominate despite their prominent part in the composition. Likewise, the mix emphasizes the different vocal styles. Although it has a cleaner production than some may want, I feel like Virulent Rapture is mixed well – as I said earlier, it strikes a good balance between the symphonic parts and the metal, allowing the keyboards to feature in places without letting them dominate overall.
The cover art for Virulent Rapture is also badass – it’s nice and symmetrical, just how I like it. Also, the color is that of the tea-soaked pages that I used to make when I was younger so that my paper looked like old parchment. The demon creature in the center is flanked by two dragons, making for a cool emblem under the band’s logo. I find the artwork fitting for the album- it’s grandiose in the way that symphonic black metal is, correlating with the coat-of-arms feel of the design, and its multiple different takes on the genre reflect a new spin on an old form, hence the color in the artwork (i.e., not black and white) and the simultaneous antique look.
Overall, I was really impressed with Hecate Enthroned’s new album. Although I wasn’t sure what to think at first, it really grew on me, and I really appreciate the variety of approaches to a very traditional sound. With Virulent Rapture, Hecate Enthroned has managed to take an original spin on a sub-subgenre that has threatened to become over saturated.
REVIEWED BY: Hagalaz of http://blackmetallurgy.wordpress.com
Riotus’ Second Opinion
I wanted to review this album so much! But I thought long and hard and found it only fair to give it to Hagalaz as i was far more familiar with the band, having followed their career after a chance encounter with them in playing live in a local rock club sometime around early 1996. On that fateful evening, i picked up their now infamous “An Ode for a Haunted Wood” demo on cassette, and have been a huge fan from that point on (I’ve still got it as well!). Since then, on many an occasion I’ve had the pleasure of these guys company was well, and so it didnt feel right for me to do a full review and i also wanted the band to know that when BurningFist! was to review the new album, it was to be completely impartial.
So, just picking up a few points raised – stylistically, Virulent Rapture brings back the early black metal elements to the front of the bands sound. Having flirted with more death metal tendencies the band have now manage to meld the two styles together with seeming ease. There is a great balance of the harsh, razor-like sounds of traditional black metal found on the bands earlier releases such as “Slaughter of Innocence” and “Dark Requiems”, and the crunchy, down-tuned punch of “Kings of Chaos”. Surely, the best of both worlds?
Whats so great about the new album is that the recent line up changes (the addition of Elliot on vocals, and Gareth on drums) have clearly given the band a new lease of life and the confidence to try new things (the aforementioned acoustic track “Immateria”) but the album also manages to have a few hidden surprises that only seem to reveal themselves after repeated listens – this adds a great longevity to the album and it keeps sounding fresh, even after many, many spins over the last couple of months.
For fans of any form of extreme metal, “Virulent Rapture” has to be on your shopping list, and is a must listen.