Artist: Blaze Of Perdition
Album Title: The Harrowing Of Hearts
Label: Metal Blade Records
Date of Release: 14 February 2020
Another release to which I have arrived late. Must try harder; must do better. The self-flagellation will begin the moment I complete this review, I promise.
Despite my tardiness, I hope the wait will prove worthwhile because I am bringing you a rather decent extreme metal album that I think will prove to be a hit amongst many of you. The band is Blaze Of Perdition and the album is entitled ‘The Harrowing Of Hearts’, the fifth full-length release of the quartet’s career to date.
Over the past decade or so since their inception, the enigmatic Blaze Of Perdition have been garnering support as they cement their place in the elite of extreme metal coming from their rich and fertile Polish homeland. In keeping with many of their compatriots, theirs is a sound that is embedded within black metal DNA but on ‘The Harrowing Of Hearts’, they have taken another step along the evolutionary path. As with all exponents of black metal, they risk receiving a backlash from the purists within the genre if they stray too far from what is considered to be ‘black metal’. And, if you are one of those purists, I suspect you’ll want to run around the cold snow-covered forest howling in horror.
For ‘The Harrowing Of Hearts’ is undoubtedly the most melodic and, dare I say it, accessible of Blaze Of Perdition’s career. As you may have guessed, this means that I really rather like it. I’ve never been against black metal containing melody – in fact, I encourage it and my tastes lean purposefully in that very direction. As such, I have plenty of positives to say about this record.
Firstly, allow me to dispel any misconceptions; ‘The Harrowing Of Hearts’ is not a record with a soft underbelly. Many of the seven tracks on this album contain some blistering black metal aggression, from the ubiquitous blast beats from drummer DQ and fast-paced staccato riffing courtesy of guitarists XCIII and M.R., to the raspy gruff delivery of vocalist S. The bass has not been neglected in what is a very commendable production job either, with the four-string rumble piercing the gloom frequently.
However, it is clear from the outset and the opening composition, ‘Suffering Made Bliss’, that the black metal framework is then layered and textured liberally in general and by a more Gothic-sounding rock influence to be more specific. Starting with the beat of a heart in silence, a speedy, cold riff and frenetic drumming soon signal the return of a talented black metal band. But it isn’t long before you notice that the abrasive metal is tinted with subtle melodies and an almost imperceptible, at least at first, honing of the rougher edges. The slower passages allow those melodies to creep further to the surface, as well as allowing a spoken-word narration style of vocal to take effect and before long I’m berating myself for not listening sooner.
‘With Madman’s Faith’ takes a while to get going, as it features a slow, brooding introduction that grows in intensity until finally, after a few false starts, it explodes. The result is all the more powerful but even then, there’s a nice tempo and groove to the black metal riffs and manic drumming. The lead guitar lines are haunting and I’m left thinking of a mash-up between latter-day Dissection and early Katatonia. The atmosphere within this song is superb, especially when it threatens to spiral out of control on occasion, in reference one imagines to the song’s title. The bass work towards the end when all else drops away is a great touch, before the song dances its way majestically to a close.
I adore the furious intro to ‘Transmutation Of Sins’ but what makes it arguably my favourite track on the record is the way it settles into something much more elegant and refined than an all-out black metal attack. The soundscapes within what is intrinsically quite an overtly melodic and epic piece are rich, multi-layered and thoroughly addictive, even groovy in places.
By contrast, ‘Królestwo Niebieskie’, translated to mean ‘Kingdom Of Heaven’, injects more of a Gothic hard rock feel, especially in the pounding mid-section. And then, in the latter stages, almost veers into blackgaze territory, accented by barely audible wailing guitar notes while the drums just pummel relentlessly.
There really isn’t a weak track here, as ‘What Christ Has Kept Apart’ offers a more sinister sheen across its eight-minute length, despite a demonstrable level of accessibility. Much the same could be said of the incredibly harsh yet epic ‘The Great Seducer’, which is possibly the best example to prove to doubters that Blaze Of Perdition haven’t entirely lost their extreme tendencies, even within the quiet minimalism of the mid-section which features tortured whispers of apparently tormented souls.
The only negative I could utter about ‘The Harrowing Of Hearts’ is the inclusion of ‘Moon Child’, a cover of the Fields Of The Nephilim track, as the final hurrah. I’d have much preferred one more original composition given how strong the previous six are. That said, there’s no denying the skill and panache with which these guys re-create the classic track, breathing a new life into it in the process. So even my negative isn’t really much of a moan to be honest.
It all means that I can only offer my congratulations to Poland’s Blaze Of Perdition for delivering a truly excellent album that proves that experimenting with new ideas doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Those with an open mind and those who like their black metal imbued with a sense of unapologetic melody and finesse should put ‘The Harrowing Of Hearts’ at the top of their lists because there’s no way you won’t like it. I guarantee it.
The Score of Much Metal: 89%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: