Adorned with a cracking bit of cover art by Sickness 666, ZYGOATSIS vocalist known for painting the devil on the wall for IMPIETY, ALMIGHTY SATHANAS AND DEIPHAGO, RITES OF DESECRATION and DEMISE looks how it sounds. Between old school rumblings from Norway and early Sweden, injected with the fire of the latter country's scene today, and a suggestion of militant German Black Metal, is the obsessively meticulous and barbarically reckless attack of these Singaporean occultists. The record is steeped in the ritualistic arrangements of raw blackened chaos, while brimming with the utter malevolence and bestiality of Southeast Asian hordes.
The main difference is the move from the mostly blasting chaos of the debut to an album spiked with pace changes and slightly more complex arrangements, while never straying from their incensed brand of straightforward blackened brutality. The transition from scalding blasts and trem-picked ugliness to the rhythmic, old school-sounding riffs and roared chants in the second half of opener “Regime Of The Underworld” is a well-constructed announcement of diabolical intent - from fury to summoning. The bristling riffs of “Proclamation Of Encroachment” are as earwig-like as they were upon the single's release about six months ago. “Vengeance Unto Thee” also utilizes more plodding sections akin to more grisly acts of the first wave of Black Metal, alongside its all-out charging sections. “The Grand Conjuration” reaches adrenalin-fuelled heights of double-kick propulsion like some of the less sane Japanese Black-Thrash exports before crashing into its Doom-like ending (replete with bluesy solo).
As well as advances in songwriting style and quality, the band has had to make a few adjustments to the line-up after the departure of Kount Cider to BLOOD DIVISION and other projects. Drummer and bassist Serberuz Hammerfrost now mans vocals as well. The disparity between Cider's piercing rasps on “Death In My Veins” and the throaty onslaught of Hammerfrost contributes to the different atmosphere of this release. His imposing bellows are in full force on “Vengeance Unto Thee," as well as during the incanting at the end of “Chaos Infinity”. Hammerfrost's drums are equally relentless, whether it's concussive rattling blasts pouring over you like so much monochromatic magma, thumping double-kicks, punishing fills or pummeling mid-tempo panzer rolls. Not to mention the mix allows them to really punch the marrow from your bones.
The guitars are a bleak but meaty bonesaw, tapping the sound of Morgan from MARDUK in sound as much as in inspiration, as on the debut. DRACONIS employ a fuller and bolder production in general, setting themselves apart in style from other orthodox Asian Black Metal hordes. While Southeast Asian black metal is rightly exalted for the basic and bestial skullfucking of such bands as SURRENDER OF DIVINITY, ZYGOATSIS and DEIPHAGO, this is a bit more of a guitar album. Xepher and Niloc are riff wizards to be feared - “Armoured Legion” features a set of riffs straight from Satan's balls, flaying and rending with huge conviction. “Chaos Infinity” blares with unbridled storms of tremolo-picked hatred likely inspired by ”Panzer Division Marduk," but unlike that album breaks into groaning mid-tempo sections - before its ominously wailing climax. With this record the band has struck upon the key to being old school as fuck - catchy-ass memorable riffs that never stray into anything so forgiving as a melodic sound.
The album breaks away from its concept and usual sound twice - the first is for a piano version of the debut's title track, “Death In My Veins," with the title “...Of Darkness And Solitude." It's like the thing was written for piano - it sounds utterly despairing in this minimalist form, providing less a break from the surrounding rage than a perverse compounding of it. Not to mention the adaptability of the song proves the versatility and quality of the riffs this band is writing. The second time is for the venomous cover of BATHORY's classic, “Satan My Master”. Sounds incredibly fucking aggressive, with DRACONIS rising to the task of a thrashier sound nicely, while KULT OV AZAZEL's Xaphan brought a hole throatful of his trademark bile and a crazy-ass solo to the party.
If the sleeve notes of albums you buy are well-thumbed, you'll enjoy furrowing your brows at the invocations of DRACONIS. While the vastly huge majority of Black Metal aims its assault at the increasingly inefficacious manipulations of Christian churches in the West, these guys level bolts of pure hatred at all major religions. You see, living in a multicultural and multireligious society, you quickly realize that in addition to Christianity, the religious texts, practices and proponents of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism/ Taoism and whatever else you can think of are utterly riddled with the utmost hypocrisy and used to mercilessly crush the minds of the weak. The rage of that realization fuels the lyrics of this concept album, coming through particularly viciously in the war cries of “Proclamation Of Encroachment” and “Armoured Legion."
Having dwelled in Singapore for nearly two years now, it didn't come as such a surprise for me that a band from such a small scene could forge such a killer album. But for the rest of you, know that old school Black Metal is well and truly alive in a climate far more sweltering than its birthplace. For those with the latest CDs from ENDSTILLE, SARGEIST and URGEHAL piled a few layers above copies of ”The Return... ," ”Endless Dark,” and ”Under A Funeral Moon," these are the Rites you've been looking for.
(Online September 11, 2011)