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Haeresiarchs of Dis - "Overture" (CD)

Haeresiarchs of Dis - "Overture" CD cover image

"Overture" track listing:

1. Prelude Vestibule (4:09)
2. 1st Movement: Memento Mori (4:59)
3. 2nd Movement: Nocturnal Me (8:20)
4. Intermezzo Atrum Votum (2:01)
5. 3rd Movement: Circle (6:57)
6. 4th Movement: Sowers of Discord (7:07)
7. Interlude Dance of Death (1:54)
8. 5th Movement: Raping Azrael (7:32)
9. Etude Synth Jesus (5:56)
10. 6th Movement: Consummatum Est (14:05)
11. Coda Hymn to Gisli (4:58)

Reviewed by on January 5, 2009

"The entire album doesn’t stay in old school black metal style, as there are plenty of creepy moments where the guitars slow down to let another instrument pierce through the fog, such as moaning organs or a crying chorus of operatic angels."

“Overture” is the first release from the little known outfit Haeresiarchs of Dis, and it will definitely build up their underground reputation and provide them with a dedicated fan base of people who prefer to use the word “horde” over “band.” At times the album stretches into the ambient style and at others goes more melodic and avant-garde, but at its heart “Overture” is cold and unrelenting black metal. It bears all the hallmarks of the early evil black metal style, with a do it yourself mentality, atmosphere so thick it can be cut with a knife, and a good dose of horror themed symphonic elements to keep everything bound together.

In keeping with the symphony theme, all of the songs are referred to as movements, interludes, or codas. The opening track, “Prelude Vestibule,” goes for the tried and true combination of disquieting sound effects and dreadful drum beats to throw a listener off guard before letting loose with the real metal. It has a much greater effect than other openings that have been done in the same style because of its extended length and ominous sounds in the background working as a precursor to the arrival of something more malignant. The barely perceptible echo of some sort of creature shuffling around restlessly in the dark, possibly searching out new prey, is just icing on the cake. The only real downside to the track pops up at the end, as a sudden, and very loud, scream pierces out of the blackness. Unfortunately it sounds more porcine than demonic, as though an angry pig somehow got into the recording studio. Maybe the band was shooting for some kind of pig demon noise, but even if it was intended it was still much less menacing than it could have been.

Any sound effect faux pas can be quickly forgiven and forgotten as “1st Movement: Memento Mori” starts, which is pure lo-fi black metal bliss. Vocalist Cernunnos takes the high pitched rasping concept to a whole new level as there is absolutely no way to decipher what he is screaming about even when directly reading along in the album insert. The lyrics for the most part stay true to the old school Emperor style, poetically dancing the line between beauty and death, but the way that they are delivered seems to indicate that the worlds themselves pale in significance to the visceral feeling that the music imparts.

The entire album doesn’t stay in old school black metal style, as there are plenty of creepy moments where the guitars slow down to let another instrument pierce through the fog, such as moaning organs or a crying chorus of operatic angels. The first half of the songs all give the impression that they are meant to be heard in order in a single sitting during spiritual contemplation or as a background for ritualistic acts. Satanic and occult imagery is heavily found throughout these songs and even on the actual CD itself, which features a complex sigil bearing the traditional names of God intoned during rites of western ceremonial magic. Songs on the second half still keep the occult lyrics running strong but lose the interconnected flow as they go in completely different directions. The short “Interlude Dance of Death” is a prime example as it has a curious juxtaposition of styles including Celtic trappings, pan flute, and a sudden break into the macabre when a lonely piano piece accompanied by a crying girl ends the song.

Most of the tracks are nice and long, averaging between five and eight minutes in length, giving plenty of time to contemplate where the song is going and whether the listener is willing to be swept along with it. There is so much going on in the fourteen minute “6th Movement: Consummatum Est” alone to warrant a good hour's worth of listening just to digest it all. Songs like “3rd Movement: Circle” also have several unexpected changes of pace where the guitars stop doing their blasting black metal act and go for a more melodic style for a brief time, which adds a new layer of complexity and makes the songs stand out much more than they would have normally.

For an initial release “Overture” does a lot of things right and provides many unexpected delights. It should more than satisfy fans of avant-garde metal, necro black metal, or even the ambient noise style.

Highs: Superb black metal styling, unexpected melody, and a dark atmosphere

Lows: Some sound effects don't work as well as others, the second half loses the flow of the album

Bottom line: Old school black metal done right, with a good dose of ambience and melody

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)