In the realms of underground metal, few labels have ever maintained both reputation and rigor with the same consistency as PEACEVILLE RECORDS. This compilation celebrates the UK imprint's 35th anniversary with a dazzling array of unreleased cuts and new material from both the well-recognized and the soon-to-be revered. Having finally lost their grip on both MY DYING BRIDE and KATATONIA, one might expect the Peaceville roster to have either changed focus or become less substantial, but neither has happened and "Dark Side of the Sacred Star" proves it.
The first two tracks are uproarious black metal at its best: an exclusive track from Norwegian legends MORTEM, "Aftermath" will scrub the skin from your face while plunging you into a bottomless well of darkness. Simultaneously ancient and modern, it nails the label's current ethos to the wall. Even better is "O Sino da Igreja", the first fruits of former MAYHEM guitarist Rune "Blasphemer" Eriksen's latest project RUïM. With tangible echoes of his late '90s rewiring of the Norwegian black metal mainframe, and MAYHEM's "Wolf's Lair Abyss" rebirth in particular, it sounds like the start of something impressively grotesque.
There are killer new tracks here from the relentlessly great MORK, occult doom eccentrics MORTUARY DRAPE and the ever-mighty, avant-garde masters of DODHEIMSGARD. Each one adds something to their respective creators' vision and legacy. In fact, DODHEIMSGARD mastermind Vicotnik does double duty here, as he unveils his return to the iridescent extremity of his band's early years, via new project DOEDSMAGHIRD. The song, "Then, to Darkness Return", is a thrilling blast of unrepentant rawness and otherworldly clangor.
Elsewhere, THORNS legend Snorre Ruch rejigs his "Helvete Theme" to great effect, and SIGH unearth an alternate version of "Mayonaka Non Kali" (from their recent "Shiki" album). Notably, Scotland's HELLRIPPER rev up their engines for next year's "Warlocks Grim and Withered Hags" with a raging new version of fan favorite "Mephistophelian Dreams" confirming that James McBain is making the most exciting, blackened speed metal on the planet. Back in Norway, elusive cult-starters KVIST offer a new track in demo form: another seething blend of filth and splendor, it bodes well for an alleged forthcoming album (their first since 1996's "For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike"). Best of all, Peaceville's newest new blood is represented by AVMAKT. A new band from DARKTHRONE's hometown of Kolboltn, they have their evil, unrelenting attack down already: "Bitter Carved Hollow" is a face-ripping revelation. More is needed.
Intelligently collated and tightly paced, "Dark Side of the Sacred Star" adds to the Peaceville legacy while shining an impenetrable black light into the face of the future. Same as it ever was.