Medieval Demon - Black Coven - (8.5/10)

Published on September 14, 2022

Tracklist:

  1. Where Witches Dwell and Labyrinths Confuse
  2. Black Coven
  3. Nocturnal Sacrilege
  4. Sylvestris Deus (Protector of the Forests)
  5. Baptismal Blood
  6. Katavythisis
  7. The Grave Dwellers

Genre:

Melodic Black

Label:

Hells Headbangers Records

Playing Time:

40:58

Country:

Greece

Year:

2022

Website:

Visit page

Medieval Demon have quite a bit of history, made more exciting if you are interested in the Greek black metal scene. This Athenian outfit have been there since right near the beginning, or at least since the annus mirabilis of Greek black metal, when in 1993 Rotting Christ, Varathron, and Necromantia all released their debut albums. It took Medieval Demon until 1998 to achieve the same end, and they then very promptly split up. For 15 years. The resurrection was attended by most of the original line-up and has now yielded 3 albums with the coming of Black Coven, while additionally seeing the recruitment of Jim Mutilator, who seems to be making a collection of scene bands for his resume, having already played with Varathron and Rotting Christ back in the day. These circumstances lend plenty of credibility to the newer form of Medieval Demon, as does a sound drenched in old-school darkness as well as a certain amount of vivid pomp.

 

 

To be honest, I didn’t quite know what to expect from Black Coven, though in the end the result falls close to the tree, if with its own peculiar features evident in the flavour of the fruit. For a start, drawing a line between introduction, song, and ritual perplexed me beyond my first listen, seeing as “Where Witches Dwell and Labyrinths Confuse” masquerades as a warm-up to the album for a while, but resolves at some unknown point to keep going for nearly 6 minutes with bits and pieces of atmospheric keyboard work, evil heavy metal ambience, and blastbeat attacks. Another couple of similar structures make it clear that eerie feels were allocated a priority place on the menu. You can put it down to listening to too many Cradle Of Filth albums with their multiple introductions, but the near-constant presence of keys is what threw me off: Lord Apollyon mainly uses organ, choirs, and piano to provide the main dose of melody to the blocky riffing of the 7 compositions, aside from a couple of guitar solos and the saxophone on the title track. Yes, we’ll come to that in a moment.

 

 

Though the keys provide a kind of lushness to the listen, the core black metal elements are supplied with a very unfussy grit that lends itself both to mid-paced epic marches and quicker assaults. As you may expect from a Greek band of this age, black metal ferocity never equates to coldness, the less ornate moments perhaps achieving a dryness when Sirokous’s prolonged croaks are audible, while the abundant melodic components leave very few dull moments. Despite sounding suitably grim for topics that involve a lot of nighttime and graves and Satan, the saxophone works oddly well with its sorrowful parp, not dominating the moments it appears nor making me think too much of that George Michael song. In fact, I’m rather surprised how well Medieval Demon cope with the stripped-down production of Black Coven, because it exhibits a nice range of potentialities, from the sinister march of “Baptismal Blood” (where the saxophone returns) to the full flurry of tremolos on “Nocturnal Sacrilege” to the crypt-dancing suspense of “Katavythisis”. Even the bass work manages to shine at various moments, the barer format of the opener a highlight in this regard.

 

 

In terms of standout passages, the differing paces of the songs help distinguish movements, while the vague gothic and heavy metal shapes provide a lighter contrast. “Sylvestris Deus (Protector of the Forests)” seems the only cut that sticks to a single approach, battering at high speed with guitars more reminiscent of a slightly optimistic Norwegian act like early Enslaved, though it also runs shortest at just 4 minutes. Another briefer number may have worked well, since the average of the others exceeds 6 minutes, yet the album as a whole only lasts 41 minutes, and with this kind of variety that hardly causes problems. Some particular riffs stick out as excellent, and in this regard Medieval Demon could be compared to Cradle Of Filth around the Midian period, where they drew from a large pool of extreme styles and rarely sounded generic. “The Grave Dwellers” flits between some deathly palm-muting, blackened charges, and much sparser gothic parts, while the closing movement of “Nocturnal Sacrilege” is worth a listen for those keen on the Dissection school too.

 

In some ways it helps that Medieval Demon have the old-school credentials to back up a clearly targeted sound, though I suppose I would consider this a strong album if it came from a new group too. With such members as perform on Black Coven, the word “derivative” can be swept off the table, in which act the careful crafting of the songs and indeed the saxophone assist also. On the other hand, I never feel thoroughly transcended as with the genius works of black metal – from any nation – so I’m happy to chalk up the latest Medieval Demon release as a good way into the band and a strong continuation, but not an absolutely essential album.

Author: Edmund Morton

Edmund is from Slough, England and has lived in Hefei, China since 2014. As the saying goes: where the head is, home is. His head is filled with heavy metal and wry thoughts.

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