VERMIS MYSTERIIS "Ceremony Of Times/Rex Noctis"

One of the biggest pratfalls in Black Metal is the use of keyboards; get too clever and you're a sell-out, however visceral the rest of the instruments may be, too simplistic and you'll be accused of sounding twee. Of course many manage to meld it into their work effectively and VERMIS MYSTERIIS are one of them, despite dropping much of it in later work. Bringing together Ceremony Of Times and Rex Noctis (I'm sure you already guessed,) the band lock the crime of passion keyboards with serial killer guitars together in the same cell and it isn't long before fists are flying (behave yourself!) The unholy racket that ensues is borne upon a guitar that's grittier than cheap muesli and actually it seems to scare away the ethereal keys for much of the time. When they do drift in, the album is knocked back into the nineties when the use of such spectral synth was the norm, they waft like fog around tombstones and are effective in shrouding the abrasiveness of the guitar in a melancholic mist. The bulk of this pairing is actually a two cats from Kilkenny, tooth and claw affair, fast and raw yet full of power and movement. The substance of the music is given depth by a rounded bass tone that rumbles like boulders in a storm surge, it constantly provides a solid foundation for the caustic guitar to spit across and counters the clatter of the drums, providing some curve to their edge. The drums themselves are harsh and martial, the strikes are sharp and the frequent bursts of speed sound like a runaway locomotive clacking wildly along the tracks. VERMIS MYSTERIIS' sound on the whole has that bleak atmosphere typical of Eastern European bands, despite the odd nod to earlier Nordic influence, it's that austerity that makes the juxtaposition of buzzing guitar and funereal synth so compelling, it's also gratifying that the band don't over egg the pudding in respect of that particular device, leaving it as a highlight amongst the more rabid fayre. The shift into the Rex Noctis part of the album brings about a more magisterial aspect, the furious pace is eschewed for a more sedate pace. The proceedings are still barbed but there's a hint of the majestic here, sombre melody permeating the sharded strike of the guitar and despite the slower progress, the dynamic remains, the raging rapids may have run into a meandering river but it's still pushing the same volume. One thing that hasn't changed though is the snarling vocals, a shredded larynx pours out hate and spite as well as a hint of anguish, in fact you can hear the throat tightening from the desire to belch out more dark bile than it can manage, it can't be healthy. I haven't got a clue what this is all about but the cover art adequately conveys the sense that however grey your day is, life carries on. You might have to constantly rally yourself to get by, and in this case, through grim determination but if you apply yourself and commit, then the bastards will be grinding some other fucker down. It helps that VERMIS MYSTERIIS have wisely included minor highlights to their work, be it periods of thumping bass bounding to the fore or the judicious use of shadowed synth. In all it's work of conviction and consistency, it won't bring joy to your day but it might give some authenticity to your next expression of hate.(7,5/10)

VERMIS MYSTERIIS "Flame of the Rage"

When you get on a bit it's easy to get confused, it doesn't help when you get two albums by the same band to review that were both released in short succession but that sound like they've got different dads. There's a cuckoo been at work here. After the Ceremony Of Times/Rex Noctis release it would seem that the keyboard clubbers have made merry with the baseball bats and so with Flame Of Rage those sylvan synth tones are nothing but a smear of blood on a wall somewhere. That means that the guitar has to bear more of the burden and it does so with aplomb. Instead of the gravelling riffs of before, now the guitar sounds fuller than a ferret fancier's trousers, the riffs have a presence to them as they roll along like the Severn Bore, seemingly unstoppable. Whilst some of the abrasiveness has gone, it's been replaced with a more sparking energy and an altogether rounder feel, helped by a touch of echo that gives the impression of being recorded in a cavern. There is much more of a Blackened groove to Flame Of Rage, almost Black 'n' Roll on much of All The Fires Burn, though it also has a rousing, surging middle third that barrels along with effusive bluster. Not every track uses the BnR motif though, Villainy And Fury basically rip-snorts along with gusto, a robust rhythm occasionally clawed by the odd lead strike. Much as the guitar has put on a few inches at the waist, so the drums have lost some of their trim, evolving from a clatter to a thud. The battery sounds more muffled than on Ceremony... but in balance it's also more organic and earthy and it still bounds along with malicious intent. Thankfully they've left the bass alone and so it continues to menace and harangue, weighted as it is to ride the guitar like it's some kind of blackened bucking bronco. The harder edge of Flame Of Rage also features some of the rise and fall chord runs you'll find on an ANGANTYR album and on In The Substance Of Wolf's Lair that acquaints to some stirring stuff that will have you swinging your wooden leg in concert. When at their most furious VERMIS MYSTERIIS remain a rousing prospect, there's spirit to the slaughter, the discreet melody making you marvel at the hammer just before it leaves you seeing stars. The snarling rasp of the half man, half beast vocals acts as worthy accompaniment to the unrelenting charge of the album, their harshness acting as a counterpoint to the tanking surge of guitar and bass. There is a strong sense of focus to Flame Of Rage, there's a concentration on just belting out the bruisers and letting the atmosphere look after itself, it's still there but not in the crepescular form found previously, we're talking more of a blood mist than a funeral fog. With the added spite comes an added maturity, in making their sound more vicious, the band have also adopted a sterner countenance and so whilst you may be smiling at the rush, they ain't. I've don't know what time separated Ceremony from Flame but the difference is marked, available together again for your consideration, you won't go far wrong with either album. If you want cobwebs hanging of your music, go for the former. If you want those cobwebs blowing away, this album is a pocket hurricane.(8/10)

VERMIS MYSTERIIS "Flame of the Rage"

The band in question here is a Ukrainian Back Metal act, who have been, according to my knowledge, acting quite silently so far without any big promotion (and this is good this way). At least, Ive hardly come across with their name in the international underground, but last year I got hold of their Rex Noctis CD by a trade and that stuff impressed my quite much. I especially liked those two slower tracks there. The songs of this release (which was put out in 2007 but the tracks themselves date back to even earlier than that) packed in blood red flames continue the rawer, harsher line partly (though, even in these songs, they do not forget about melodies, like in All the Fires Burn), not forgetting some slower, moodier passages due to which the tracks are even more memorable. Anyway, they do not bring revolutional ideas (I must add, fortunately), there are raw, well-composed Black Metal themes on the a bit longer than half an hour stuff, and we can hear some more traditional, catchy riffs here and there (as in the slower I am the Great creator), or moody synth parts. The sound is also not an overly distorted mass but a metallic sound of raw power, in which even the bass does not get lost. Unfortunately, the translations of the lyrics arent perfect but we can, at least, get a picture of what theyre singing, mainly about paganism. In my opinion, the band is a unique participant of the still quite active Ukrainian Black/Pagan movement so I can easily recommend them to those interested.

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