Honoring the past, conquering the future
To be honest with you, I wasn’t expecting to be totally blown away by this. I wasn’t too excited about the direction Varathron were taking with Untrodden Corridors of Hades – it was a rather chaotic, somewhat directionless release, with a lack of coherent songwriting structures. Sure, not everybody needs riff/lead/verse/chorus/etc. constructions to be memorable, but Varathron‘s most distinctive quality (apart from Necroabyssious beastly vocals) have always been the RIFFS and their ability to create several climaxes within their songs. Said qualities have shown themselves less frequently in more recent albums and therefore these releases have been a little bit of a hit-or-miss affair.
With Patriarchs of Evil, Necroabyssious and his (this time consistent) line-up of fine musicians offer a majestic, heavy and intensely atmospheric, “Hellenic-to-the-core” full-length album that will not only appease the appetite of fans from all eras of this long-lasting band, it will leave them craving for more. Songs like “Tenebrous”, “Hellwitch” and “Ouroboros Dweller” aim directly at the heart of the oldschool fan, filling it with orgiastic delight, as the classic heavy metal riffs ooze with atmosphere, closely intertwined with frantic, headbang-friendly fretboard-work. Accompanied by those sinister, yet majestic lead melodies that only the fellow Greeks seem to be fully adept at, the classic fan is in for a treat that even rivals and sometimes surpasses (!) the ancient classics by this band, as well as their fraternal genre originators, Rotting Christ.
Yet, while we’re digging deeper into this album, we are not only wallowing in the past on Patriarchs of Evil, we are also experiencing an evolution, the addition of more – dare I say it – somber-sounding passages due to an increased use of arpeggios (distorted and clean) which are very well integrated into their sound recipe, as they are only drawn out so much that their repetition does not hurt the flow of the tracks (“Remnants of the Dark Testament”, “Ouroboros Dweller”) as well as an incorporation of thrashier riffs and rhythm/lead-guitar harmonizing (“Into the Absurd”).
Varathron‘s vocals remain out-of-this-world brutal for black metal standards, but still the vivid imagery remains audible, which is something I enjoy very much because many of the words are perfectly understandable without having to look at the lyrics sheet. No one else sounds like Stefan Necroabyssious, a feat that has not changed over the last 25+ years. I also want to state my deepest respect for this man – respect and gratitude – for being one of the most important forces in the Hellenic black metal scene, keeping it alive and on the radar over the last decade and beyond. I’m glad he found a stable line-up of worthy musicians to bring this musical tour de force onto the stages of the world.
Okay, I’m gonna stop the fanboy-drooling now for a conclusion!
In the end, all I can say is – check out this record if you are even remotely interested in black or death metal. You want intense atmosphere and an emphasis on great guitar riffs, served in a cocktail of aggression and melodic grandeur, garnished by one of the most iconic extreme metal vocalists in the scene? Get this album and I promise you, it will be worth your time and effort.
Personal highlights: “Tenebrous”, “Saturnian Sect”, “Remnants of the Dark Testament”, “Ourobos Dweller”.