Reviewing the latest offering from a band that I know so well, and whose self-proclaimed ‘unholy sermons’ I have witnessed on many occasions, can be an equivocal experience. On the one hand, your eager finger presses play as your even more eager mind implores itself to love every devilish moment of it yet, on the other, you call into question your ability to be subjective given the familiarity with this band and its members. So, I did exactly what every self respecting music reviewer would do and got drunk to the point that I no longer remembered my own name – never mind who the hell this pivotal UK black metal band are.
Following up the positively glorious full-length from 2016, ‘The Great Mortality’, this new record sees the band take the unusual step of adopting a much rawer, much bleaker and undeniably less polished approach to their craft. This would seem, undoubtedly, at odds with the development of the vast majority of other bands – but maybe that’s because The Infernal Sea have always presented a contrary approach to their peers. And, to my enormous relief, it works.
The band have, without doubt, attempted to capture the magnificent racket they can generate live and commit this to record. The blistering hammer blows of opener ‘Destruction of Shum’ conjure up dingy venues filled with more smoke than the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) and indistinct, masked figures lurking about and generally being rather noisy. Further into the voyage through these savage waters, the most orthodoxically black metal track, ‘Field of the Burned’, shows off the sheer brilliance of this outfit, whilst my favourite, the fist-pumping, heaviest of metal anthem ‘Devoid of Fear’, launches the whole affair to another, remarkably unique level.
The musicianship here is, expectedly, absolutely on the money and there are certainly aspects that demonstrate an elevation in The Infernal Sea’s ability to read the dynamics and to ensure that each track remains intriguing and drenched in a very fierce vitality. The sublimity of the bluesy, Maiden-esque guitar solo that closes the already-released ‘Befallen Order’, as well as the theatrically menacing vocal performance throughout, is wholly a testament to their maturity.
So, despite my inability to string a sentence together, I am amazed that we have got this far. Maybe it was the undeniable quality of this quite heavenly slice of British Black Metal Pie. ‘Negotium Crucis’ is a barbarous romp through an impassable minefield without the faintest care for which bits of you are going to get blown off next. Unrelenting from start to finish, it’s the sound of this exceptional band doing exactly what they do best – and that is being a shimmering example of precisely what heavy metal should be. Live. Loud. And dangerous.
The Infernal Sea – ‘Negotium Crucis’ is out on September 18th via Apocalyptic Witchcraft. Pre-orders available now.