Monday, May 20, 2013

Thou Art Lord - The Regal Pulse of Lucifer (2013)

Thou Art Lord have never released a bad album, but they've also never release a particularly great one either. However, they are trying pretty damn hard to change that through The Regal Pulse of Lucifer, a catchy full-length which fondly summons up comparisons to both their earlier records like Eosforos, and several of the seminal efforts of their brother band Rotting Christ, like Thy Mighty Contract or Triarchy of the Lost Lovers. In fact, I was quite shocked at just how fluently this album brought on a nostalgia for the 'Golden Age' of Hellenic black metal, when the prominent bands in this region were taking a more tangibly melodic and mid-paced path rather than the oft ceaseless blasting grime and tremolo flood associated with many bands in the Scandinavian scene. This is varied, memorable, atmospheric material, which even at its cheesiest provides entertainment, and I'll go out on a limb to claim that it's their best record yet, effortlessly recommended to anyone who enjoys the particular sound.

I'll go one further: I've enjoyed this album more than the past decade of Rotting Christ material. Granted, the differences are minimal, and if you had Necromayhem/Sakis Tolis handling the vocals full time instead of Gothmog, it'd be difficult to distinguish the two on a cut like "Nine Steps to Hell". But let's not diminish the presence of 'The Magus' Warmpyr Daoloth on bass and keys, or new members Maelstrom on drums (who has played in a shit ton of bands including Dodsferd, Nadiwrath, Ravencult and Abyssgale) or El of Nergal and Soulskinner on guitars and additional keyboards. I mean, when you just look upon the long list of works associated with this quintet, it's no wonder that they're so capable of creating such purism of the past...several of them are the very same individuals who pioneered it. Necromayhem's crisp, staccato picking techniques and slower, majestic note progressions lie at the heart of this experience, of course. A track like "Infernarium" begs the question: what if Rotting Christ had hired Tom G. Warrior to sing on Triarchy of the Lost Lovers? Elsewhere, "L'Evangelium de Diable" and "Artificial Malevolence" manifest immediate, passionate melodies that will stick in my brain for months to come.

The vocals are consistently brutish and ghastly, with Tolis and Wampyr lending their own nefarious timbres in support of Gothmog's guttural might. Bass guitars are actually pretty timid for Daoloth, a man used to driving his own main band with the very same instrument, but the tone booms sufficiently along with Maelstrom's blasting and there's just enough happening with the rhythm guitar harmonies and frilly, spectral lead sequences that I can forgive a lack of corpulent and distorted bass grooves. Synthesizers are total old school ambient screams against the infernal night of "Nine Steps to Hell", while guitars and keys are also used to embed the freakish but subtle effects off the beat, like the squeals in the breakdown of that very same track, peppered over the old school Celtic Frost-style groove. I should point out that the record is structured and pace to maintain the listeners' interests throughout, moving in equal measure through faster and mid-paced numbers, or capturing a wider range within a single piece, i.e. "The Regal Pulse of Lucifer" itself with its morose Gothic pianos in the verse.

There's a fantastic 'Easter egg' at the close of the album ("Fire and Blood") in which the band offers up a tremolo picked metallic rendition of Ramin Djawadi's opening theme for the Game of Thrones TV series, instantly recognizable and proof that these Greeks have great taste in fiction as well as music; but to be honest I was equally pleased throughout by the original material. A few note progressions here or there seemed familiar and 'generic' for the genre, but in general it felt like they were putting some effort into shiny new patterns that would remain sweet on the ears. Layered with all the effects, the multi-pronged vocal attack, and the intense and level rhythmic consistency of the new drummer, The Regal Pulse of Lucifer is unquestionably a 'complete package' whose subtleties don't fade after the first few listens. I've been going over it for about a week now in my car and still haven't stopped smiling. Varathron, Nergal, Rotting Christ, Necromantia and obviously earlier Thou Art Lord fans rejoice.

Verdict: Win [8.25/10]!/

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