Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sargeist


Sargeist - Feeding the Crawling Shadows
W.T.C. Productions, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Feeding the Crawling Shadows
2. In Charnel Dreams
3. Unto the Undead Temple
4. Snares of Impurity
5. Return of the Rats
6. The Unspoken Ones
7. The Shunned Angel
8. Inside the Demon's Maze
9. Kingdom Below
10. Funerary Descend





I feel like a new Sargeist appeared out of nowhere this year. Before we knew it, all of a sudden there was a new Sargeist release available. I really had no idea it was coming or that anything was even being worked on. However, the tall order to attempt to outdo "Let the Devil In" still stands. I think Sargeist knew this after they released that album and how critically acclaimed it was. Perhaps they thought they'd reached the pinnacle of that stylistic approach, but "Feeding the Crawling Shadows" feels like a rather different approach to the Sargeist style.

The riffing style and approach hasn't changed very much, but the atmosphere they've built on "Feeding the Crawling Shadows" is almost entirely different. It's not just because they're using harsh production to its full effect either. Here they've taken a step back from "Let the Devil In" and where that album felt immense and triumphant, "Feeding the Crawling" shadows feels extremely bleak and hateful. Rather than approach the riff structure as they had done before, here they will let sequences drone on at times, creating this layer of darkness that wasn't as present before. At points I feel like I hear some Katharsis showing through as on parts of "Unto the Undead Temple". Furthermore, I think they're trying to harness some production elements featured from Tenebrae in Perpetuum's style, but recast those approaches in the Sargeist style. The end result is, basically, an entirely different sounding Sargeist album. Which was a great idea, since perhaps there really was no topping "Let the Devil In", so the best thing to do was approach the style from a different angle. Another major difference that shows up here is Torog's vocal approach. Sure, he still uses the traditional high ranged rasp we've all come to love, but he also goes for a deeper commanding styled voice at times throughout the album. Similar to the chorus section of the song "Let the Devil In". For the most part this vocal approach works out very well, the one complaint I have is that sometimes its pretty loud in the mix and it drowns out the music. This was painfully clear on the opening song "Feeding the Crawling Shadows", so much so that it somewhat marred the enjoyability of listening to that song. As the album moves on, I feel like things get a little better... or I just got used to the production over time.

In the end, I'm not sure I think this is better than "Let the Devil In". It is tough to compare the releases on any level, as they are quite different. I think "Feeding the Crawling Shadows" is breaking new ground for Sargeist and they will, perhaps, have to run the same track and fully develop this edge into something as compelling and awe inspiring as "Let the Devil In". Only the future will tell, for now, I am glad to see this new track being developed. It could be an even stronger method as it develops further and it will be great to see that eventually happen.


Sargeist - The Rebirth of a Cursed Existence
W.T.C. Productions, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

1. Reaping with Curses & Plague
2. The Rebirth of a Cursed Existence
3. Sinister Glow of the Funeral Torches
4. Wraith Messiah
5. Cursed be the Flesh I have Spared
6. Vorax Obscurum
7. Black Unholy Happiness
8. The Covenant Rite
9. Dead Ravens Memory
10. Crimson Wine
11. Dark Embrace
12. The Crown of Burning Stars
13. The Moon Growing Colder
14. Nightmares and Necromancy

This isn't a new album, instead it is a compilation of a lot of songs that never made it onto albums over the years. Basically this is an updated version of the "Funeral Curses" compilation. The really great part here is that it is finally released on CD. Much of this material has never been released on this format before. "Funeral Curses" was a cassette only release after all. This release goes beyond the "Funeral Curses" material and puts all the splits and vinyl released after that compilation on this one. The other boon we get with this release is that it has all been remastered. So, now we don't have much in the way of production differences when it comes to the material released on the Merrimack/Sargeist split and "Lair of Necromancy". This is definitely an essential release if you've missed out on all the prior material not featured on full-lengths. The only split material not on here is the split with "Horned Almighty", but that is probably because it is readily available. The two tracks on here that I hadn't heard before is "Black Unholy Happiness", because that was featured on a compilation I never purchased and "The Covenant Rite", which was featured as a bonus track on the "Disciple of the Heinous Path" LP edition. Both new tracks are quite excellent, of course this is when Sargeist was basically in stride for how to write compelling and good Black Metal, so I am not surprised. "The Covenant Rite" probably could have worked well on "Disciple of the Heinous Path" and I'm not too sure why it was never included. Either way... this release is absolutely worth getting, even if you had all the vinyl and splits from before this.


Sargeist - Lair of Necromancy
Hospital Productions, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Nightmares and Necromancy
2. The Moon Growing Colder














It seems that Sargeist is wasting no time in getting back to their release schedule of before. The year after "Let the Devil In" we have two new songs from Sargeist. Now, I don't know if these tracks were rejects from the "Let the Devil In" recording sessions, and given the way these sound, I wouldn't be surprised if they were. I'm sure this 7" is limited, but nothing is mentioned anywhere on this released.

I can understand why these tracks would not have been recorded on "Let the Devil In", if that is where they are from, they're entirely too fast and hard hitting compared to the rest of the material on that album. They melodies are also sort of different in feel. They are sort of reminiscent of the soaring epic nature found on the Behexen side of the Behexen/Horna split. There's also some rhythm sections on "Nightmares and Necromancy" that are extremely upbeat and that would have really ruined the dark atmosphere being generated on "Let the Devil In. Even though this may not really be the usual style for Sargeist, I did like the songs. I think "Moon Growing Colder" was a bit better than "Nightmares and Necromancy" though. I doubt these tracks are indicative of a future Sargeist style, instead I would suspect they are a sign that Sargeist is being a lot more strict about what appears on a full-length release.


Sargeist / Drowning the Light Split
Moribund Records, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

Sargeist:
1. Crimson Wine
Drowning the Light:
2. As the Blood Flows on...











Side Drowning the Light: ...coming eventually...
Side Sargeist:

I believe this split was supposed to be released prior to "Let the Devil In", but most of the dates I find say it actually came out in 2011. Even so, the date listed on the jacket is 2010 and the catalog number is before the catalog number on "Let the Devil In". Either way, this split comes as a 7" vinyl and is limited to 500 copies, but is not hand-numbered.

This material seems to definitely be considered between "The Dark Embrace" and "Let the Devil In". The material was recorded back in 2008, shortly after "The Dark Embrace's" release. So, in that context this material isn't quite on the same level as "Let the Devil In". Instead it is more like that earlier transitional state that we found "The Dark Embrace" sitting in. They are fleshing out their ideas in a much more solid fashion, but "Crimson Wine" doesn't have the same level of enthralling writing we saw with "Let the Devil In". Still, if you're a die-hard Sargeist follower, then this is certainly worth getting. "Crimson Wine" is hardly a bad song and it is very good for "The Dark Embrace" time frame.


Sargeist - Let the Devil In
Moribund Records, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. Empire of Suffering
2. A Spell to Awaken the Temple
3. From the Black Coffin Lair
4. Burning Voice of Adoration
5. Nocturnal Revelation
6. Discovering the Enshrouded Eye
7. Let the Devil In
8. Sanguine Rituals
9. Twilight Breath of Satan
10. As Darkness Tears the World Apart





It's always exhilarating to see a band you follow eventually create an album that is clearly reaching the pinnacle of their existence. I don't want to mean that everything will be downhill from here, but it certainly sets an extremely high bar in the bands direction. If they can keep this level of quality for future releases, we will be very fortunate listeners, but for some reason the first appearance of real artistic strength always remains special to me, no matter what band I listen to.

From the very first note struck we know we have something special on our hands. Forget prior Sargeist releases that had riffs that didn't ensnare you in the moment, "Let the Devil In" has absolutely no waste. Every note struck is magical and brings you into a world of dark melancholy. It truly is a beautiful release in the grand scheme of things. Listen to how well crafted "From the Black Coffin Lair" is, its, honestly, one of the finest Black Metal songs ever composed. Even the catchy chorus of "Let the Devil In" works very well with their style, and this is something I would not have thought would work with their sound. Torog's vocal work feels a lot more thought out this time around. His vocals mesh with the riffing a lot more seamlessly this time, really setting this album as a full package that was very well cared for in composition. This release is very hard to describe beyond the normal description of what I've said about Sargeist. The core essence of their writing hasn't changed, what has changed is the way they've crafted and arranged things. Every element is perfectly tempered seeking a certain level of quality, that, maybe, they'd never reached for before.

Few albums in 2010 could top this release and this is an album I return to again and again. "Let the Devil In" just has this timeless quality to it, where you know it will be an incredible album for years and years. It will be impressive if Sargeist can build something beyond this exquisite crafting, but it will be tough to top. The collection of songs on here reaches such a high mark, that I don't see it being done for quite a while at last. They have certainly come a long way since the early days of the project. People who complain about modern Black Metal are obviously not listening to this band or album.


Sargeist - The Dark Embrace
Moribund Records, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Dark Embrace
2. The Crown of Burning Stars














This is shocking news. In 2007 Sargeist didn't release any material!! I know, I feel speechless. There wasn't some grand full-length waiting in the winds, unfortunately, instead they've returned with a two track EP. This 7" vinyl is limited to 1,000 copies, but it is not hand-numbered on the jacket.

I think this is some more of the more newly composed material. Sargeist certainly still have that spark that was lit afire during the "Disciples of the Heinous Path" recording, but I feel that the songs on "The Dark Embrace" are actually more well crafted... if that's possible. Prior to this there were always some lulls in Sargeist's material that sort of droned on, or were overshadowed by the really stand-out riffs... on here, though, the material is meshed in a much more cohesive fashion. This is only serving to make me even more excited for another full-length from Sargeist. I feel they're really starting to harness their power even more than before. So, here's hoping that "The Dark Embrace" is a sign of things to come.


Sargeist / Bahimiron Split
Obscure Abhorrence Productions, 2006
Genre: Black Metal

Sargeist:
1. Dead Ravens Memory
Bahimiron
2. The Raping of Flesh











Side Bahimiron: ...coming eventually...
Side Sargeist:

Keeping up with Sargeist's demanding release schedule 2006 brings us this 7" vinyl split with Bahimiron. Its limited to 1,000 copies, though a limitation is not referenced on the actual release. It's a gatefold styled packaging, which is quite nice.

"Dead Ravens Memory" sounds like it could have come right off the "Disciples of the Heinous Path" album. The core riffing has this catchy feel to it that really draws the listener in, but it really maintains that melancholic aspect that makes their style so intoxicating. It doesn't say when this track was composed, so it does make me wonder if this is a more modern song. If it is, it doesn't seem they have lost the direction since 2001's writing at all. There are some riffs on here that aren't as stand-out, but that is because, I think, they are overshadowed by the really spectacular elements. I still look forward to what Sargeist has in store for us next!


Sargeist - Disciple of the Heinous Path
Moribund Records, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

1. Black Treasures of Melancholy
2. Remains of an Unholy Past
3. Cursed Blaze of Rituals
4. Disciple of the Heinous Path
5. Heretic Iron Will
6. Echoes from a Morbid Night









I don't know what happened with Behexen, Horna, and Sargeist, but all the albums released around the 2005 time are some of the best material from the projects to date! "Disciple of the Heinous Path" is really where Sargeist started to hammer home the style they were going after. "Satanic Black Devotion" was just the beginning on that road and with the new album they've really upped the ante and solidified their writing style.

Despite this material sounding so good and fresh, the liner notes say this was written back in 2001. It kind of makes me wonder if they've just written all this material and are sitting on all this amazing work. Listen to that opening guitar line on "Remains of an Unholy Past". It is one of the finest guitar lines around and just sounds amazing. This whole album has a sort of melancholic element, that is just doused in sheer evil which results in an album that has a rather epic quality to it. "Cursed Blaze of Rituals" is a slow plodding song that bears elements of Bathory's "Equimanthorn" at times, however, Sargeist's approach is markedly much darker. "Echoes from a Morbid Night" is an incredible closer to this album and it has some of the finest riffing ever featured. Sargeist has really hit a high point with this release!

Given the time the material was composed, its hard to say "I like this direction Sargeist" is heading in... since it seems they went in this direction years ago. It does make me wonder what their future holds at this point. This is an excellent album and if you've enjoyed "Satanic Black Devotion", you will simply love this release. For me, this is really where their career starts to take-off and now I listen with rapt attention to whatever they release.


Sargeist - Funeral Curses
Adversary Productions, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Rebirth of a Cursed Existence
2. Sinister Glow of the Funeral Torches
3. Reaping with Curses & Plague
4. Cursed Be the Flesh I have Spared
5. Vorax Obscurum
6. Wraith Messiah










This is a really interesting compilation, especially if you are somewhat oblivious to a band's involvement in compilations like I am. The only limitation I've seen associated with this tape is 300 copies, I do not know if that is true or not. No limitation is listed anywhere on the release, but I am sure it is limited to something. This release is well done and features a pro-printed booklet with liner notes/cover on one side and lyrics on the other. The cassette itself is also pro-printed.

I like the way they've split up the tracks on this release. The first side is material recorded in 2002. The opening track is taken from a Woodcut Records compilation and is a totally new track. It definitely serves as a decent transition track between "Tyranny Returns" and the Merrimack split. The second is from another compilation and is clearly a re-recorded of "Sinister Glow of a the Funeral Torches", which was originally featured on the "Tyranny Returns" demo. The recording quality on this is a huge step-up from the original demo material. However, I'm still not sure it was enough for me to fall in love with the writing. Next we have the track from the Merrimack split, which is reviewed below.

The second side features material recorded in 2003. Here we start with a song that was released only on the "Satanic Black Devotion" vinyl edition. I can definitely see why this track was not included on the full-length. It really doesn't fit into the atmosphere or style being developed. Its a much more raw and vicious style of Black Metal and it relies more on catchy rhythms than melody to convey  the hateful attitude. The next track, "Vorax Obscurum" was featured on the legendary "Tormenting Legends" compilation. This actually fits with the bonus track from "Satanic Black Devotion" pretty well. Since Sargeist keep sort of returning to that raw crunching style of Black Metal, it makes me wonder if they will eventually just fall into that for an album. Finally, we have the song that was featured on the split with Temple of Baal, reviewed below.

This is a great tape compilation. I actually had no idea that Sargeist was putting out original or re-recorded material to the compilation community. So, its really great to see all this material I missed out on brought under a single release. I really don't have much of an interest in owning all these original compilations, so this is definitely necessary for my Sargeist discography.


Sargeist / Funeral Elegy Split
Paleur Mortelle Productions, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

Sargeist:
1. An Oath Sworn for the Holocaust
2. Hungering Thirst
3. Hateful Spirit
4. Lunar Curse
Funeral Elegy:
5. Dropped on Inferna
6. Black Desire
7. Baal
8. Dew of Blood
9. A Strife... a Victory (Kristallnacht Cover)





Side Funeral Elegy: ...coming eventually...
Side Sargeist:

Sargeist have, yet, another split released in 2004! I fear they may be heading in the Horna direction after all. This release only exists on cassette. It comes with a xeroxed cover and dubbed tape. Its fairly sought after because it is limited to 200 hand-numbered copies and I own #91.

This split doesn't contain newly recorded material from Sargeist, instead this is old previously unreleased material. It's sort of strange to listen to in that regard. It says the material was recorded in 2000, so this is prior to the second demo  and after their first demo. I wonder if this was meant to be the second demo... but instead they re-recorded material from the first instead. Its sort of interesting because the raw material on here sounds a lot more similar to what Sargeist would produce on the split with Merrimack than what they did with "Tyranny Returns". I actually think it has better production quality too. The Sargeist side finishes off with "Lunar Curse" which is apparently a song written in 1998. I do wonder if this is one of the earliest Sargeist songs written. Naturally this song is a very primitive song and has a far more intense hateful streak to it. It makes me wonder what the first Sargeist demo really sounded like, because I may have enjoyed this more than "Tyranny Returns" in some respects. Granted it is nothing original, but it doesn't sound bad at all. I'm, ultimately, glad this material finally got to see the light of day in some form or another.

Sargeist / Horned Almighty Split
Moribund Records, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

Sargeist:
1. In Ruin & Despair
2. Questing the Blessing of Evil
3. Profane Bleeding Call
4. At the Altar of the Beast
Horned Almighty:
5. Skullsplitting Manifest
6. Degradation Song
7. In Torture We Trust
8. To the Lords Our Lives






Side Horned Almighty: ...coming eventually...
Side Sargeist:

In the same year as the split with Temple of Baal, Sargeist brought another split into existence. This time with Horned Almighty. It seems this year is taking the route of splits rather than working on a new full-length. This time the split is pressed on CD and vinyl. The production on these tracks feels a lot more raw than the prior releases, which is interesting and actually doesn't really mar the music at all. I wish I could say every track on here was up to the same quality levels of the prior two releases, but there are songs on here that were just okay. The album starts strong with the song "In Ruin & Despair", which starts with an engaging melody for a while before the vocals ever kick in. This was great, because it sort of acted as an intro to their side, without actually making a separate track. It also allowed them to build into that riff, rather than just leaving it as an intro piece like too many bands do. The following track isn't nearly as interesting to me. "Questing the Blessing of Evil" is just a slow plodding track that, unfortunately, fell more on the boring side versus the droning and atmospheric. The third track falls more in the realms of Horna than Sargeist's usual style, so I'm not sure why that wasn't made into a Horna song. It has moments of Sargeist, but feels more Horna overall. This theme sort of keeps up with the final track too. So, in the end, we get a great Sargeist song, a not so interesting song, and two mostly Horna styled tracks.


Temple of Baal / Sargeist Split
Grievantee, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

Temple of Baal:
1. Bitter Days
Sargeist:
2. Wraith Messiah












Side Temple of Baal: ...coming eventually...
Side Sargeist

It seems Sargeist might be afflicted with the same disease Horna is. Writing more material than you know what to do with then releasing more splits than is possible to collect. Okay, Sargeist aren't that bad with these types of releases. Here Sargeist turns to France once again to find a bland to split with and they really have chosen to work with two stellar French projects already. Hopefully this is a sign of splits to come! This split is a vinyl 7" limited to 500 copies, or so some sources say. The limitation actually isn't listed anywhere on the release. There's not much beyond the 7" with this release. Lyrics are printed on the back of the sleeve, but there really aren't any liner notes either.

Sargeist bring us one new track and its clearly in the vein of "Satanic Black Devotion". Naturally, if you enjoyed that album, I can't imagine why you wouldn't enjoy this song. Sargeist show they are capable of writing on the lengthier side with this song being nearly seven minutes in length. Longer track times seems to work pretty well with the Sargeist style and it really allows us to fall into their melancholic yet hateful styles. Definitely a solid track worth having for the Sargeist fanatic.


Sargeist - Satanic Black Devotion
Moribund Records, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

1. Preludium
2. Satanic Black Devotion
3. Obire Pestis
4. Frowning, Existing
5. Glorification
6. Panzergod
7. Black Fucking Murder
8. Sargeist
9. Returning to Misery & Comfort






After hearing the split with Merrimack I was pretty excited to hear what Sargeist had in store for us next. What we get is an incredible new full-length. The prior split was, indeed, indicative of the direction Sargeist would be taking on this future release. However, this is so much more than just being like that original song.

It also seems Sargeist have gone through some serious line-up changes. Shatraug no longer bothers to hide his identity in the line-up, and here we see two new members round out the group. He looks to the already known finnish band Behexen to help with the missing musicians. This is the blend that brings Sargeist to perfection. Here I really think Sargeist blends the work of Horna and Behexen together, and while some of my readers may wonder if that's overly redundant, it really isn't. It brings us a really different and really interesting atmosphere. It really has that oppressive dark atmosphere of Behexen and the hateful melodies so sought after in the Horna style. The Black Metal atmosphere that gets constructed is unlike anything the two bands are striving for. Bringing in Hoath Torog on vocals was a really smart move and he really rounds out Sargeist's sound with his incredible rasps.

"Satanic Black Devotion" is a little odd in some respects, because for the most part it is this wonderful experience between melody and darkness, but with the song "Glorification" things get a little heavier. This keeps up through "Panzergod" and reminds me of the more grinding Gorgoroth style Horna tracks that Shatraug has produced over the years. After this the album returns to the style we've come to expect on this album, hitting really high points with tracks like "Sargeist" and the catchy "Black Fucking Murder".

This is really a stellar album. I truly hope Sargeist see fit to produce this style to its fullest. Its a very different blend of Black Metal despite the clear influences being brought together. Naturally, if you're already a huge fan of Behexen or Horna, then Sargeist is a band you simply must listen to.


Merrimack / Sargeist Split
Moribund Records, 2002
Genre: Black Metal

Merrimack:
1. Guardians of Your Slavery
Sargeist:
2. Reaping with Curses and Plague












Side Merrimack: ...coming eventually...
Side Sargeist:

 It seems the first demo was enough to get the Sargeist project noticed by Moribund Records, who has agreed to released this 7" vinyl split. It's limited to 1,000 hand-numbered copies and I own #430. Its kind of incredible the changes that have undergone the Sargeist writing style. It seems an infusion of melody has really crept into their style a lot. Not to mention, I feel like they have also leaned in the direction of having a Horna edge in their sound, so maybe trying to sound entirely different from Horna wasn't working from them. Be that as it may "Reaping with Curses and Plague" is a very different Sargeist track and its wonderfully sinister with those hateful melodies being performed. This is really a stand-out transition for Sargeist and if they're going to head in this direction, Sargeist is going to be one hell of a strong Black Metal band in the future. We'll see what the future brings eventually...


Sargeist - Tyranny Returns
Warmoon Records, 2001
Genre: Black Metal

1. Preludium: Golden Seed of Father-Sun
2. Anti-Human Black Metal Wrath
3. Night of Sacred Wisdom
4. Dark Fortress
5. Scion of Glory & Pride
6. Interludium
7. The Impaler Prince
8. Sinister Glow of the Funeral Torches
9. Sworn by the White Wolves Blood
10. Iron, Blood & Blasphemy
11. Postludium: Silver Womb of Mother-Moon




"Tyranny Returns" is actually Sargeist's second demo and I have completely given up on finding their two dating back to 1999. Instead, the version pictured above is the re-release of the demo by Moribund Records in 2005. The original cassette was released by Shatraug's own label and limited to 222 hand-numbered copies. Shatraug isn't even named on the original demo tape, he goes by the name Lord Belethor Grimstein. On the re-release he is the only band member pictured and I have no idea who the other members were, but there seems to have been some falling out since the re-release states "No thanks to ex-members of those times, rot in heaven..." One of the reasons Sargeist started getting rather popular is because it was touted as a side-project involving members from the more well known Horna. It seems back in Sargeist's early inception perhaps they wanted that connection to be more hidden.

Despite the Horna connection "Tyranny Returns" sounds fairly different from what you would expect to hear from Horna in 2001. Sargeist seems to be more raging and primitive Black Metal. There are times when the Horna style shows up a little bit like in "Scion of Glory and Pride", but I think its fairly minimal overall for this demo. "Tyranny Returns" is probably a further evolution in the growth of the project and I can only imagine what the prior demo sounded like. I think they are still going through a bit of growing pains in the attempt to go beyond the Black Metal that has already been created. Some songs just don't fit with the overall demo at all like "Night of Sacred Wisdom", which sounds like some early 90's Black Metal with the old clean vocal style... I can't think of a project that comes to mind at the moment. Certainly not on the level of Ulver or anything, but more like Isengard maybe. Then later "Sinister Glow of the Funeral Torches" touches on a new take of the Funeral Dirge... which has been done too many times already. "Iron, Blood & Blasphemy" seems to herald back to the early days of Bathory and really stands out as disjoint from the rest of the songs. I feel as the band tried to write very differently from Horna, they have fallen back to the roots of the genre trying a large amount of different methods whether they seem connected or not.

I think if you like the every old style of Black Metal in the early 90's with the raw and harsh production, you may find this a more compelling release. This release didn't really stand out to me too much in the end. I feel like the project still needs to undergo a lot more evolution, but this is certainly worth hearing for the Sargeist collector. Its always worth hearing a bands origins for sure.


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