The Gods Below

rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Nightborn
02. Serpentine Shadows
03. The Winds Of Astaroth
04. Beyond The Clandestine
05. The Heart Of Darkness
06. To Reach The Eternal Ends
07. Constellationrise
08. The Gods Below
09. Planar Nexus

A desire to invoke darkness drives every black metal band, but OSSILEGIUM ooze impenetrable, black horror from every pore. The full-length follow-up to a couple of low-key releases, "The Gods Below" begins with a sustained blast of monochrome violence, immediately setting the tone for an album that plunders old-school treasures, underpinning them with levels of aggression and wall-of-sound maximalism that frequently take the breath away.

The band's name means, in essence, bone collector: a reference to the arcane practice of gathering the bones of the dead and placing them in a funerary casket, to elude the destructive grind of time itself. Metaphorically speaking, OSSILEGIUM's music stands proudly on the disassembled skeletons of the ancients, from the melodic savagery of DISSECTION and SACRAMENTUM, to the pitch-black hostility of the eternally underrated UNANIMATED and cherished cult heroes DAWN.

That is not to say that OSSILEGIUM are entirely in thrall to Scandinavian melodic black metal, but that the apocalyptic spirit that drove those formative years of blackened fury has found a new and formidable epicenter here. Opener "Nightborn" is an absurdly exciting rush of blasphemous power, imbued with the most classic of black metal tropes, but stretched to accommodate the gnarly swell of deathly dissonance, and executed with unbending militancy. The production is just about perfect: deep, dark, booming with strange unholiness, and yet unashamedly metal as all hell. Vocalist Moroii favors a mid-range roar, with pinpoint enunciation and overwhelming authority. OSSILEGIUM are very obviously the real deal.

There are times when "The Gods Below" takes its foot from the accelerator for a brief moment. "The Winds Of Astaroth" is a lavish and fervently melodic piece, with an obvious debt to the grandiose, windswept atmospheres of black metal's mid-'90s evolution. Nonetheless, OSSILEGIUM are sworn to the black to such an extent that even their most measured songs seethe and spit with a terrifying sense of urgency. Blastbeats are used as weapons of disorientation, and Moroii's screams become increasingly animalistic and wild. Between melody and madness, "The Gods Below" plants its flag into seldom explored territory and shoves the victory down our throats with palpable venom. The likes of "Beyond The Clandestine" and "To Reach The Eternal Ends" are exercises in refined metal songwriting, but delivered with such insane gusto that, at times, OSSILEGIUM seem to race off towards oblivion with no care for the consequences. But when those mid-paced riffs kick in, their control and class are brought into sharp focus.

On the doomy and dynamic "Constellationrise", initial restraint is swiftly converted into all-out, muscular dominance, with a primitive, old-school beat, and triumphant guitar hooks that soar across dense riffing, piercing the obsidian sky like some malevolent distortion of '80s IRON MAIDEN. The title track repeats the trick, but with even greater intensity, as if OSSILEGIUM are determined to leave listeners shellshocked and bruised, and propelled towards the flaming abyss whether they like it or not.

A near-perfect blend of old-school reverence and timeless vitality, "The Gods Below" is utterly convincing and truly exciting from start to finish. It's the sound of bones crunching underfoot, as the sky blackens and the light of life is brutally extinguished. Fuck yeah.

Author: Dom Lawson
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