Devathorn are another of the numerous Greek black metal bands to arrive in the 21st century and launch themselves immediately below the radar with a sound more representative of the European forebears than the local Hellenic sect. However, they do so with a particular, barbaric swagger and competent riffing structures that are both dire and melodic, almost as if one could slow and stretch the aesthetics of late 80s Bathory or early Marduk that the listener is repeatedly punched in the face by both fell majesties and atrocities. There's also a trace of the Finnish in Barathrum or Horna. Diadema is a solid debut effort. Unlikely to stand any test of time, and hardly impressive when rendered into individual components, but altogether aware of its goals and the influences that bred it.
A fascinating intro ("Ingressus") mixes vocal samples, simmering background choir-synths and ingredients of noise and distortion which beg for an explosion of ferocity. Instead, we get a slower paced piece in "Diadema", funneling along with a sad yet predictable melody before it accelerates to an even more mediocre, faster-paced blast segment. Crude, warlike riffing patterns seem to provide the central fuel for the record, and songs like "Bleed Heaven Bleed" and the spiky and frenetic "Vultus Mortis" might be suitable for a ghastly afternoon of medieval slaughter, but they simply never evoke any notation that goes above and beyond the call of the genre. Raise your axe and cut a swath through some poseurs (or Christians), but you soon forget the battle as it blends in the memory with so many others you've fought, or heard the fighting of. Every now and then there's a solid track with a good raw relapse into the Norse prime of the 90s, like in "Clovus Dei", but the overall outlook here is one of lackluster familiarity.
I do like their ambient pieces, of course. "Prelude to Possession" is a freakish interlude with some heavy, droning guitars and fucked vocal incantations, and the closer "His Adversary" is a dreamy departure from the rather brazen, in your face tactics of the metal content. But then, these are only going to get you so far before you need to put some elbow grease into the composition. By no means is Diadema a particularly poor offering for its genre, but you've sadly heard it all before, and the Greeks just don't do a better job of it than the scores of predecessors who were writing beyond this level in the 80s. More of the same, for more of the same people who by this point might have been sick to death of it.
Verdict: Indifference [6.25/10] (sinners claiming sainthood)