Review: Berzerker “Pereat Mundus”

Review: Berzerker “Pereat Mundus”

- in Reviews

In the waning days of 2021, Vienna-based black metalers Berzerker bequeathed to the world Pereat Mundus, a bruising debut nearly half a decade in the making. Written and largely performed by the duo of Bughuul (guitars, bass, drums, and synth) and Imbrifer (vocals and lyrics), with mixing and production also undertaken by Bughuul, Pereat Mundus is an act of worship as Berzerker emulates the progenitors of Second Wave Black Metal standards with slight touches of Teutonic thrash. But more than a genuflection, the band’s inaugural effort contains enough flashes of creativity while still adhering to traditional genre mainstays to suggest that future releases may offer more unique interpretations of black metal without sacrificing any of the malevolence on display.

The full album comprises seven tracks that total just over 48 minutes, however the CD available from the band also includes a cover of composer Clint Mansell’s “Requiem for a Dream”, bringing the total time of the physical release to just under an hour. While the most dedicated acolytes and stalwarts who eat, drink, and breathe black metal will no doubt gladly wallow in the mania and vitriol here, 50 minutes of no-frills black metal is likely a difficult ask for newcomers and or fans of latter-day black metal acts that mix more melodic, progressive, and jazz elements with blast beats. Berzerker’s purview is a purer distillation of the northern European strain of black metal as discordant riffs, tremolo picking, and a relentless drum assault are all on full display. Tortured shrieks awash in reverb haunt the mix with verses that are more concerned with the horror of nuclear holocaust and both inner and societal turmoil than Satan and mythology frozen in time. However, there is no shortage of eldritch horrors, bodily mutilation, blasphemous iconoclasm, and other thrash, death, and black metal themes that our music catalogues have been replete with for decades. Much of what is assembled here is a suitable consolation prize after being told no, you can’t go back to 1994.

The approach very much works. Pereat Mundus is strongest when, as the name implies, it is dealing the most punishment and when the full brunt of Berzerker’s ferocity is on display. “Endzeit” stands out as the height of what the band can compose: a ferocious 4 and a half-minute rip that has staying power capable of far longer than that. However, the track is bookended by its inverses. “Immanentization of Eschaton” and “From Darkness We Came” are the two longest tracks and arguably overstay their welcome while aiming for a more theatrical and ambience-heavy presentation. Experimentation and use of aural queues to convey mood can often be interesting welcome additions, however the use of synths and sound effects on these tracks are underwhelming. Moreover, the extra room given over to the guitars is used more to repeat the same riff than of any kind of modulation or elaboration. Particularly jarring is the use of a vocal choir effect during the quiet bridge on “Eschaton” where the effect comes across as too artificial and staccato and takes the listener out of the experience. Overall there are a number of spots where more judicious trimming and editing would have made a much meaner and vivacious record.

The back half of the album is much more focused, and songs like “Awaiting Your Downfall” and “Isolation” where both the instrumentation and vocal performances are more visceral and in line with the aggressiveness of “Endzeit”. “The Art of Slaughter” is an appropriate midpoint for the album as ferocity is successfully matched with theatricality to create a cohesive showcase of both musical and vocal prowess.

Throughout the album, the drums provide a level of technicality and efficiency often exceeding the rest of the instrumentation. Given their role as the primary source of propulsion for each song, and considering the level of percussive proficiency that is often the average in the genre, this is largely in line with expectations. Lead guitars are mixed high, front, and center and the vocals are largely relegated to the back of the mix. The vocals are arguably strong enough to merit more presence, and Imbrifer’s capabilities and range cannot be questioned, but their ethereal nature is also an appropriate thematic choice.

Overall, Pereat Mundus is a strong debut with a lot of substance for listeners to latch onto. Even missteps illustrate that compromise is not an option for Berzerker when it comes to their vision, and successive releases can only benefit from the approach. Particularly when the core tenets of black metal are as sacrosanct and locked in as they are here. True disciples would do well to spend some time with this release.

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