The Polish veterans push the boundaries while remaining fully immersed in black metal tradition.
Words by Ryan McCarthy:
BLAZE OF PERDITION is a four piece who play a cerebral, almost thoughtful brand of black metal. The Harrowing of Hearts is BLAZE OF PERDITION’s fifth full-length release since 2004. Having also released a slew of EPs and splits, it’s clear that these Polish gents have fully immersed themselves in the fires of creative energy. I’m reminded of bands such as SCHAMMASCH, ASCENSION, and even WATAIN in their less frenetic moments when listening to this record.
The seven compositions on The Harrowing of Hearts are methodical and precise with a heavy emphasis on pacing and dynamics. BLAZE OF PERDITION makes liberal use of clean sections and other tension-building tactics to maximize the emotional impact of their music. In fact, there’s almost a paradox lying at the heart of this record: their style is self-evidently black metal, yet they also eschew some of the more obvious trappings of the genre, such as a reliance on blast beats, tremolo riffs, and shrieked vocals. Of course, these elements aren’t completely absent from the record by any means, but they rarely form the crux of the compositions. Commenting on this, vocalist Sonneillon says:
“To me, it’s mostly the emotional content that makes the music what it is, not the form of expression, so we don’t actually think over the ideas in terms of if they’re black metal enough or not. We focus on what we want to express and how to do it and if we want a riff to be more rock or punk-influenced or whatever then we go with it - as long as it makes sense to us composition-wise, of course. Besides, black metal has been reimagined, re-influenced and reshaped countless times, and so many self-important people claim to have authority over the genre and how it should be expressed that I don’t think there’s any real pattern here or rules to obey anymore. Art means freedom after all.”
Another wildly successful aspect of this record is the vocal phrasing, which is perhaps an odd claim to make about a black metal record. Hell, the chorus on With Madman’s Faith is downright catchy and gives me chills every time I hear it. Additionally, a lot of the riffs are wonderfully memorable in their simplicity. It’s a great credit to a band when they know how to craft a straightforward riff and don’t need to rely on frills and fills to keep the listener’s attention. Everything on this record is controlled and precise, borrowing heavily from rock 'n' roll’s song structures while still injecting new life and energy into the formula. I feel compelled to clarify that I’m not claiming that this is a black 'n' roll record, just pointing out that conventional song structures are pretty easy to identify in these songs. In fact, this influence is explicitly acknowledged by Sonneillon, who says, “Although some gothic rock influences could be heard on [2017’s] Conscious Darkness, here we took them out of the shadows and let them shine in the spotlight. It’s also our most collectively written effort so far, with every band member throwing something meaningful to the whole.”
Now, I’m a huge lyric nerd, so naturally I had to dive in and see what this record is all about. The writing style favors brevity over detail, but what it looks in flower prose it more than makes up for in provocative imagery. Take for example the lyrics on the third song, Transmutation of Sins:
“For I am the sword / That cuts through the night / For I am the cross / Torment sanctified / For this is my flesh / Fodder for the heart / For this is my blood / Pouring from the sky”
The writing here is succinct but still wonderfully evocative. Additionally, it’s pretty clear that the band draws on bastardized religious imagery to convey their unique brand of spirituality. Sonneillon notes,
“It’s related to and partially based on the Christian concept of “The Harrowing of Hell” which is Christ’s descent into Hell. Heart serves here as a symbolical Hell, a source of our deepest and darkest desires, forbidden thoughts, fears etc. Thus The Harrowing of Hearts puts us in Christ’s shoes on a metaphorical journey into one’s soul to face and come to terms with whatever it holds, very close to the Jungian concept of shadow integration mentioned here and there on our previous album.”
At 51 minutes in length (with the last track being a FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM cover), The Harrowing of Hearts is a bit on the longer side, but if you can sit with it and give it the attention it deserves, you’ll find that the album is a dense and rewarding experience full of memorable moments and emotive melodies. There’s an undeniable power in BLAZE OF PERDITION’s music, and I’m already anticipating their next offering.
The Harrowing of Hearts is out on February 14th via Metal Blade. Pre-order yours HERE.