Sometimes the term “experimental” causes hairs to raise on the back of your neck, it's instinctual, from days when humans were prey items, until you're familiar with something, you treat it with caution. It's the same for Black Metal, some of the variations would be better left in the test tube, however SANCTUS NEX's meddling has resulted in music that bridles with strength and purpose.
“Exhordium Of The Apostate” leaves you guessing for some considerable time as to whether you are in for a head massage or a skull fucking, as far as setting atmosphere is concerned, it hints at ill omen but you aren't sure in what form, clearly there is intellect involved but is it going to weave intricacies or is it going to wield the hammer? Five minutes later the answer remains elusive as “In Pursuit Of Albion” writhes in sinuous fashion around shadowed columns suggesting dark conspiracy until the beast bursts forth like a raging bull during Ragnorok. Fury is unleashed but in a controlled manner, the chains hold as the unholy mass strains for release, it's black and dense yet SANCTUS NEX are able to direct it to maximum effect. And so surges of power stampede from the slower, more sinister sections where the guitar practices back-stabbing as if awaiting its Caesar, in fact the blades are out throughout “Aurelia,” it's just the manner of their execution that differs whether they stab, hew, hack or slice.
This album sits fair and square on top of the hill where Black Metal bands who regularly eat three shredded wheat gather. Quite apart from the knaves with knives guitar, there is a bass that bounds along like a bouncing bomb, rich and rounded with just a hint of edge, it glowers at you like some bollock man on the cusp of 'roid rage. The drums have the same full sound, rolling along like a train of empty railway bowsers and carriages, there's plenty of clatter and hollow thud especially when the steam's up. The bass and drums really provide a solid foundation for allowing the guitars to concentrate on their cut and thrust, this backbone is reminiscent of a band like NAGELFAR whose construction was also framed with girders. The result is that there is the sense of twisted metal and spilt oil about SANCTUS NEX, it's as if someone's sabotaged a pipeline, given the viscous pump of the bass.
The experimentation within “Aurelia” is subtle, the Metal comes first. It takes quite a few spins for the nuances to begin to manifest, initial listens tend to concentrate on the steamroller progress but eventually the other personalities of the guitar make themselves known and you wouldn't want to be left alone with any of them. Shepherded by the magisterial vocals, the guitars constantly test the authority of that voice which projects a growled order to events, though not with any semblance of sanity, the sneering contempt that smears itself over the singing fits hand in glove with the ambience of the instrumentation, substantial and hard as rock. It's mainly the structure of the slower sections that explores the genre boundary, though it's never crossed, it's pushed but remains wholly Black Metal throughout, albeit far removed from the staples as so much of the genre is nowadays.
“Aurelia” is a work that has obviously been subject to development before SANCTUS NEX unleashed it, the components and catalysts that make up the composition have been sourced to ensure this album goes with a bang, it's no accident that this will induce detonations from ear to ear.
(Online March 5, 2010)