Style: Symphonic Black Metal
Release Date: 6 Sep 2019
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There are a lot of ways that bands can grab my attention. I'll often check out an album because of its cover, genre or country of origin. Every now and again, like here, it's the band's very name that stands out. Black metal, with its legacy of anti-Christian, Satanic and, sometimes, outright Nazi ideology, is not well known as a genre for its tolerance. Yet here are a symphonic black metal band called Bykürius. Yeah, I was intrigued.
I was even more intrigued when I discovered that this duo (Swagrath handles the guitars and Muzgash the bass, with both adding vocals) have been a duo under this name since 2013 and have two full albums out but haven't written anything until now. Both those albums, and the EP that preceded this one in 2019, are comprised only of covers, from Iron Maiden to Cradle of Filth, via Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Madonna and King Crimson. I'm unsure whether I want to hear some of those, but original material is another matter.
And I wonder why they weren't playing original material all along, because I have to say that I've heard a lot worse in my time. What's more, for all the Cradle of Filth that's obviously in the band's sound, especially on Satan's Wretched Armies Grow, there's lots of originality in this original material and many bands with long careers can't claim that. That's a power metal solo in Rise, Our Father Lucifer and I dug both the violin and the theatrics in Baphomet Rules Below. Did I hear a harp on the instrumental intro, Your Obsidian Labyrinth Opens?
As a mere EP, this runs pretty long, mostly because the final track is only a few seconds shy of ten minutes on its own. If we exclude the spoken word poetry tracks on the new Iggy Pop album, this EP outlasts it by a couple of minutes. And, in its way, it's just as inventive. That final track, Worship the Fallen, isn't remotely what I was expecting, with a frequent soft tone, with violin and flute prominent. It's epic stuff and it's very tasty indeed. In fact, its storytelling about the fall of Satan often reminded me of Fish-era Marillion, who are about as far away from black metal as can comfortably be imagined.
And yes, lyrically it's dark. Black metal may have gradually moved away from its old Satanic imagery, but this is almost preachy about the wonders of the fallen angel, full of "Rise, our father Lucifer, shackle the frail God" and "Let Heaven ring with echoes ov our dark Lord's name". Musically, it's dark when it wants to be. Rise, Our Father Lucifer features spat vocals and fast blastbeats, the latter of which even continue through that power metal solo. The EP mostly continues in that vein until the final track, which is rather different.
Here's where I'd usually suggest that I'd love to hear a full length studio album from this new band, but they've already given us two of them that I'm frankly not too likely to check out. Even with the variety in evidence here, I'm not sure I want to try a six minute symphonic black metal version of The Court of the Crimson King. I want more Baphomet Rules Below and Worship the Fallen. Let's hope this EP does well enough in comparison with the previous releases to keep Bykürius on the right, erm, left hand path.