01. In The Eye Of Heaven 02. Hail The Abyss 03. At Night 04. Velvet Damnation 05. On The Wings Of Cosmic Fire 06. Acheronian Cult 07. As I Walk Through The Gateway 08. Blood Of Slaves 09. In Darkness We Descend 10. The Final Closure
Living proof that a slow evolution can lead to great things, THULCANDRA have been steadily gathering momentum for over a decade now. It was obvious from their debut album — 2010's "Fallen Angel's Dominion" — that the Germans had their own, unique approach to an otherwise traditional strain of blackened death metal. Over the course of three further albums, THULCANDRA have grown as songwriters, and 2021's "A Dying Wish" was rightly acclaimed as their most powerful statement to date. If "Hail The Abyss" is simply more of the same, you won't find many people complaining.
The biggest difference between this record and its predecessor is that "Hail The Abyss" feels more firmly rooted in black metal's sonic values, and more windswept and wild as a result. The opening "In The Eye Of Heaven" may be the finest song THULCANDRA have penned to date. An epic squall of melodic grimness, it highlights the subtle power of producer Dan Swano's mix: everything is crystal clear, and yet equally venomous and abrasive to the last drop. The title track hammers the point home, as frontman Steffen Kummerer (also OBSCURA) rasps and shrieks over a propulsive but woozily atmospheric backdrop, with gothic tones and merciless blastbeats in nefarious harmony. That balance between otherworldly obscurity and bone-crunching, straight-ahead metal informs every minute of this album, but most notably on its lengthier tracks. "Acheronian Cult" is a blazing, mid-paced rampage that seamlessly switches gears midway through, as THULCANDRA's sound becomes ever grander and more cinematic. Similarly, "Blood Of Slaves" begins with a vast, star-bound and tear-stained melody, before erupting into old-school death metal savagery of the highest order.
Kummerer's crew seldom do anything that would disrupt the blackened status quo, but everything they do seems designed to add color and depth to black metal's monochrome scree. Closing epic "The Final Closure" goes furthest of all. An eight-minute blackened doom ritual with eerie echoes of MERCYFUL FATE and MY DYING BRIDE, it's THULCANDRA at their heaviest and most dramatic, and provides their fifth and best album with a fitting, soul-wrenching conclusion.
Other bands may make more fuss and create more controversy, but when it comes to writing deep and evocative black metal tunes, and performing them with total conviction, THULCANDRA are one of the smartest and classiest acts around.
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