Saturday, December 15, 2012

Blood of Kingu

Blood of Kingu - Dark Star in the Right Horn of the Crescent Moon
Season of Mist, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Crowned Scarlet Moon is Waiting for Eclipse
2. He Who is Not to Be Named
3. Mother Hydra
4. Enshrined in the Nethermost Lairs Beneath the Oceans
5. Red Star on the Path of Ea
6. Sigil of the Watcher
7. Prayer to the Gods of Night
8. The Bringer of Pestilence
9. The Cycle Returneth

After the massive success of "Sun in the House of the Scorpion", I was really excited to hear a follow-up release and see what would come next. After four years we finally hear stirrings from the Blood of Kingu again. I must say, I was totally unprepared for this release and I actually had no idea it was coming out until I was flipping through a "new release" section at my local record store. When I stumbled upon this, I purchased it immediately. One thing Season of Mist has started doing is including a sticker that basically advertises the album here it is recommended for people who like "Deathspell Omega, Nile, Blut aus Nord, Burzum, and Portal". I understand name dropping to garner interest from new people, but Blood of Kingu doesn't sound that much like these bands. They don't sound anything like Portal and the only time Nile could ever come up is with the Middle-Eastern theme and keyboard use... otherwise this is entirely different. So, be wary of these stickers... they don't imply anything about a bands actual sound. However, I do understand that if you are a fan of those bands listed, there's a decent chance you'll like this too.

Delving into "Dark Star on the Right Horn of the Crescent Moon" has been a very enjoyable endeavor... however, I'm just going to call this album "Dark Star" from now on, since the title is overlong. If you were expecting the direction to continue in much of the same, then you're in for an unexpected treat. I feel like "Dark Star" has a much more subdued atmosphere than "Sun in the House of the Scorpion" and the focus isn't placed on making a very heavy sounding album. I think a lot of this comes into play because of the production quality and the kinds of riffs being performed. Here the riffing feels like it heralds back to the days of Hate Forest's "Purity", but rather than generating that majestic nature, here it is far more dark and sinister in its approach. The music is still a very fast paced brand of Black Metal, but Blood of Kingu are generating a vastly different atmosphere this time around when compared to the last album. Some parts sound tense because of the riff being performed, as in "The Bringer of Pestilence". This approach, generally, gives the album a less punishing feel than the usual Hate Forest approach, so its a very interesting progression of that sound. I think people will find this is an interesting and very good progression of the Hate Forest sound into darker and more sinister channels. With this shift, I really appreciate that the album is forty minutes of original songs, so it gives us time to really engage this atmosphere and approach.

This is a really solid album and I'm glad to see they are still trying to advance this style even further. The Middle-Eastern keyboard effects seems a bit lessened on this release, and it shows up only where it really enhances a particular passage. I think the inclusion of those elements in songs more works better than just making intros and outros to different tracks. Either way, this is a very well done album and I am pleasantly surprised about finding it when I wasn't even looking to begin with! Most listeners should know what to expect from these prolific musicians at this point.

Blood of Kingu - Sun in the House of the Scorpion
Candlelight Records, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. Herald of the Aeon of Darkness
2. Those that Wander Amidst the Stars
3. Cyclopean Temples of the Old Ones
4. Incantation of He Who Sleeps
5. Guardians of Gateways to Outer Void
6. Ceremonies to Awake Thy Ageless Hate
7. Morbid Black Dreams Bringing Madness
8. Gate of Nanna (Beherit Cover)

Where the Blood of Kingu tried to give us something a little different compared to Hate Forest, the follow-up "Sun in the House of the Scorpion" is the proper continuation of "Sorrow". When I purchased the first Blood of Kingu album, this is really what I was, sort of, expecting from the project when it started having that intense Hate Forest style.

While the band tries to keep up the concept of Middle-Eastern influence occult Black Metal, the actual Black Metal performance is totally Ukrainian and the only Middle-Eastern-ish pieces are the keyboard or samples being used. The intro track builds a sort of Middle-Eastern atmosphere, similar to what hear Nile do, but that feeling entirely disappears just like in the debut from Blood of Kingu. "Those that Wander Amidst the Stars" launches into the fast and vicious style we've come to expect from Hate Forest and then the real kicker, the vocals have returned to normal. Saenko is using the tried and true Death Metal styled growls he first used in Hate Forest. This makes Blood of Kingu even more of a Hate Forest project, just with a different lyrical and image concept. I'm actually surprised he doesn't consider this a change of name situation here. The hypnotic and immersive atmosphere is generated by speed and a punishing sound rather than the majesty found on Drudkh, so it really isn't too different from Hate Forest. There are parts where a Drudkh element creeps in to create a more dynamic atmosphere like on "Incantation of He Who Sleeps", but that's about it. The rest of the release is a punishing and intense experience with all the immense heaviness in guitar tone we experienced with "Sorrow". One thing Blood of Kingu fixed from the days of "Sorrow" is that the songs feel a lot less clipped. On "Sorrow" it felt like the songs were just cut off and stopped suddenly, Blood of Kingu doesn't feel like that so much, final notes ring out more and it feels a lot more satisfying rather than abrupt.

The lyrical and art concepts are a little different this time around. Rather than going for the historical Sumerian/Babylonian approach, this album is all about H.P. Lovecraft. In fact the booklet's liner notes say "In memory of H.P. Lovecraft", but all you need is to flip through the booklet and look at the occult symbols, which have long been associated with his work. While this certainly keeps up the ancient Middle-Eastern theme, it delves more into Fantasy this time around. The album ends on a quite strange note with the Beherit cover. It's such a slow and heavy song, that it feels somewhat out of place amidst all this speed we just experienced. Still the song does fit with the artistic direction of the album, so it makes sense in that context.

This is an amazing follow-up and this is essentially what I really wanted to hear from the project anyway. I love that the sound of Hate Forest has not died out and if you are a long time Hate Forest fan, Saenko continues that original sound with this album even more. This makes it a must have and it serves as quite an immense follow-up to "Sorrow" in that regard.

Blood of Kingu - De Occulta Philosophy
Supernal Music, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

1. Incoarika Incognita
2. Your Blood, Nubia! Your Power, Egypt!
3. Mummu Tiamat
4. Stronghold of Megaliths, Thorns and Human Bones
5. Slaughter of Shudras
6. Lair of Night Abzu
7. Black Spectral Wings of Shaman
8. Vajtarani
9. Chambers of Inpu-Sub

Anyone who knows me knows that I am quite the Hate Forest fan. Probably more a fan of Roman Saenko in general having just about all the music he's ever put out. So it should come as no surprise to hear me say that I was disappointed to hear that Saenko has put an end to the Hate Forest project. I know Drudkh is vastly popular and I enjoy the music as well, but I've always enjoyed the music in Hate Forest even more, so at first I was rather dismayed at the thought that he would just do Drudkh full time. What is this retrospective detail building up to? The announcement of Blood of Kingu. When I first heard this was in the works I was quite excited because I've always enjoyed his furious and vicious music, thankfully that approach isn't stopping on Blood of Kingu.

I really wasn't sure what to expect with "De Occulta Philosophia", but I had fairly high expectations. Sometimes this can backfire entirely because many times my expectations are never met when a band shifts; however, Blood of Kingu did a fairly good job at coming close. It's not perfect by any means, but it is close enough for me to surely enjoy. After hearing this album it makes me wonder if Saenko ended the Hate Forest project because it was getting much too aggressive for that bands concept. If we remember where "Sorrow" ended a lot of the really majestic atmosphere was replaced with a very vicious sound. Personally, I absolutely loved it, but I can see why going more in that vein would warrant a slight shift in band name. If this is the reason for a new project that only vaults my respect for Saenko even higher because very few musicians realize that when they drastically change the inherent sound of a band you might as well end that project if you're going to change to something completely different, unless, of course, you're known for doing something different every time.

Basically, this lands us with "De Occulta Philosophia". I think Saenko, in his compositions with Drudkh was touching upon the folk and softer majesty he wanted to, so that left him with a need to create far more fast and furious music, thus he splits the musical efforts into two different bands rather than combining them in Hate Forest. I'm sure at this point you've guessed "Blood of Kingu" is the more intense music and naturally I'm going to love it. Given the band name and some of the other track titles I was expecting something with a very heavy Middle Eastern vibe, maybe something in lieu of Melechesh? The introductory track "Incoarica Incognita" seems to suggest this, but that's not what happens on the album.

What we ended up with was the direction Hate Forest was heading on "Sorrow". Seriously, there is virtually no difference in that concept here. I will say this, the opening riff for "Your Blood, Nubia! Your Power, Egypt!" is one of the best riffs in Saenko's repertoire. However, despite the Sumerian/Persian and Egyptian concepts that appear to be prevalent on this albums concept, I can't say that worked its way into the compositional elements very much. The guitar work doesn't work on Middle Eastern scales at all, so it seems like that concept is just in the lyrical/song title area. The booklet concept definitely follows through with the Hate Forest style where it's all just images and there are no lyrics of any kind. In Blood of Kingu we are presented with Egyptian pictures and other images that appear to be of a more Semitic origin, not sure what era, could be Persian, Sumerian, or Akkadian for all I know (basically Mesopotamian in origin), a lot of that art looks very similar to me and I won't claim to have a trained eye. I can definitely say that the band name and album title are on the front cover are made to appear like they were formed in the wedge shape cuneiform found in the Mesopotamian cultures.

Now for those who are thinking I'm making this sound like an album that is all speed and ferocious playing, let me say that's definitely not the case. While the first song lends itself to that, for the most part the album falls back into the Hate Forest concepts that we have grown to love in Saenko's sound. That hypnotic quality we heard in Hate Forest is also still maintained in Blood of Kingu, so all in all, not much has changed. Granted I don't think this will have as much atmosphere as something like "Purity", but the majestic guitar segments are still here and I can only imagine that they are here to stay. On a musical level I enjoyed this album very much and there was only one blemish that I could really find and that was in one song where you could hear the ring of the snare really prominently, in one instance it was a very loud "tong" sound. I doubt this was intentional, but it did stick out in that song.

Now it is time to discuss the one aspect most people will probably dislike quite a bit. I'm honestly sort of on the fence in regard to the vocals; personally I don't like them at all. However, I can't say they take away from the music. They are heavily mixed into the background and sound like some sort of strange hum. Personally I wish he had stuck with the tried and true method either adopting the vocal styles from Hate Forest or the more mid-range from Drudkh. I would've preferred he went with a mid-range performance as I have always thought it would go better with Hate Forest's music over the lower toned growls. The vocals being done in this fashion on "De Occulta Philosophia" gives the album a sort of all instrumental effect to the listeners and because of Saenko's fairly epic sounding guitar lines this album ends up being far too short. This is one those times where extra length would be a benefit. The hypnotic effect of Hate Forest is still present and that's one of the parts I really enjoyed, but this album doesn't strongly set into that effect because the album is so short and it's over too fast for me. Granted you can get into the drone based speed, but I just wanted more.

Overall, this is a good release and I think Hate Forest fans will really enjoy it. Again, the vocal performance is nothing desirable, by any means, but it's barely in the forefront so it shouldn't take away from the listen too much. In fact, like Drudkh, there appears to be barely any vocals in the songs these days. We also noticed Saenko taking this approach with "Sorrow" when there were a lot less as well. However, I can't deny it, I love this guitar work and I love this music. It's just very enthralling and if you were a fan of the direction "Sorrow" was heading then Blood of Kingu is definitely something you'll want to check in on regardless of the vocal quality.

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