Though it's not a unique trait among black metal bands to write lengthy, and often unnecessarily drawn out compositions, French act Supplicium have taken on a rather ambitious task for themselves with their full-length debut Magna Atra Missa. The album is close to 70 minutes in total length, with 5 of its 8 tracks clocking in between 10 and 12 minutes. Thus, I was fully expecting to encounter huge stretches of desperate, derivative, dull repetition over the course of but a few riffs, and an inevitable lack of interest. However, these Frenchmen have studied carefully in how to construct such a piece, because they almost immediately grab your attention with one of the album's best songs and riffs, and then deliver an adequately produced, resonant atmosphere throughout the entire duration of the recording, with enough tempo shifts that you rarely find yourself twiddling your thumbs in the pangs of ennui.
Granted, Supplicium do not exact deliver groundbreaking material here, clearly taking queues from some of the best in the business. You'll hear a little Emperor, Mayhem, Bathory, Dark Funeral or Marduk in their compositions, but they deserve some credit for not drowning out entire songs with keyboard and sub-standard riffing. One of the skills of this band is their ability to create atmosphere straight through the guitars, which bleed and twist with a frenzy driven only by the most heretical of impulses, more than once delivering a killer hook that should be the envy of many, similar acts which fail to evoke anything but frenetic patterns of uninteresting notation over a blast beat. I won't claim that the entire duration of Magna Atra Missa creates a distinctive experience, but probably half or more of the time I was drawn in by the hymns to the diabolic that inhabits its landscape.
The peak comes early, as the choir, bleak sampled winds and tolling bell of the intro give way to the rampant, despotic driving guitar line that heralds "Saltatio Mortis (Morbid Catharsis)", which survives its 11 minute existence as the most memorable track here, shifting from pure hellish energy and momentum to an obscured majesty in the vague chord selection. "Holy Hate" is a straightforward blasting with small segues to where the drums drop out and the guitars rage forward, but it's also the shortest core metal track with an eerie, resonant closure that welcomes the cruising and crashing hostility of "Limbus Puerorum", which features some savage streaming melodies at its heart. It isn't really until "Evil Slowly Infects Our Souls" that I felt any twang of boredom whatsoever, and this is saved by the bombast of the slower paced, Blood Fire Death styled rhythms that close out the bridge. The album's longest piece, "Darkest Apocalypse (The End of Humanity)" drags its pitchfork a little in over 12 minutes, but there are at least some great guitar riffs stowed away in the interior, and the haunting outro to the record helps tie off the knot.
If you're hoping for some manner of revelation in your next black metal purchase, Supplicium does not have that on offer. What they do guarantee is a fairly potent experience with several points at which unshakable, daemonic melodies erupt in your face. Many of the longer tracks zip on by like black lightning against an abysmal sky, and the clarity of its presentation only adds resonance to its bitter, blasting winds. Whether you're a fan of this style's Norse and Swedish benefactors, or similar young bands such as Germany's Orlog or French Nyseius, there is a riff or three here that should work you up to a frothing, bible shredding fever.
Verdict: Win [7.5/10]