Osculum Infame - The Axis of Blood - (9/10)
Published on July 15, 2015
It’s easy to forget that, between the lo-fi insanity of the infamous Les Legions Noires on one hand and the boundary-smashing experimentation of the Deathspell Omega/Blut Aus Nord school on the other, the French scene also birthed a contingent of bands that largely eschewed the extremes of the above-mentioned movements in favor of the sound pioneered by their Scandinavian counterparts. Alongside names like Funeral (later known as Kristallnacht), Merrimack, Bekhira, Epheles and Belenos, Parisian act Osculum Infame spearheaded this ‘middle way’ of sorts, releasing the cult classic Dor-Nu-Fauglith in 1997 and the less well-received The Black Theology EP in 2000 before fading into obscurity. They reported back for duty a decade later with 2010’s Quwm EP, but it took another five years before their second full-length proper, The Axis of Blood, finally saw the light of day (the EPs released during the interim were essentially compilations). Pre-release buzz around the album has been minimal—it seems to have been released under cover of night by Battlesk’rs Productions—but those underground enthusiasts who have been pining away for The Axis of Blood with bated breath can breathe easy because it is a cracker of a comeback album!
Deftly straddling the divide between the slow-burning atmospheric grandeur of Dor-Nu-Fauglith and the more aggressive approach taken on The Black Theology, these eleven songs play out like a well-heeled sonic snapshot of these Parisian blackhearts’ evolution over the years. Listening to The Axis of Blood induced a rush similar to the one experienced when Canada’s Godless North burst onto the scene in 2001 with Summon the Age of Supremacy, at least insofar as the album is of a similarly grim and traditional, yet undeniably hook-filled, disposition that actually serves as a welcome antidote to the prevailing genre fads of the day.
Packed to the hilt with serrated yet melodically inclined riffs reminiscent of those churned out by the likes of Ragnarok and Setherial in their early days before mindless blasting became their central concern, The Axis of Blood surges upwards and onwards at a brisker pace than that of Dor-Nu-Fauglith, but said album’s atmospheric undercurrent has not been forsaken. Those familiar with drummer Malkira’s former project Desolation Triumphalis will undoubtedly enjoy the pensive “Cognitive Perdition of the Insane” and the even darker “White Void” (replete with dreary violin), while those seeking something that zones in on the jugular will needs met as soon as the razor-sharp “Inner Falling of the Glory of God” starts slashing away. Regardless of whether they’re opting for mood or mayhem, the band’s firm mastery of their chosen style is on such stark display throughout The Axis of Blood that it almost comes off as obnoxious.
They’re not obnoxious of course; this is simply a band that has dedicated many years to perfecting their craft, and these new songs carry that spirit of perseverance and passion. It goes without saying but the atmosphere is black as tar throughout the album, with the riff- (and mood-heavy) “Kaoist Serpentis” being but one instance among many of downright evil black metal (it also doesn’t hurt that one of the best riffs that Gorgoroth never wrote pops up at around the 5 minute mark to lay waste to anything and everything living). The highlights abound on here, and it’s a testament to the band’s song-writing caliber that the album never loses its lustre in spite of the rather lengthy running time. All things considered, The Axis of Blood is an excellent slab of French black metal recommended for those who prefer their metal a tad on the reactionary side.