Tuesday 7 November 2023

Diabolic Night - Beneath the Crimson Prophecy (2023)

Country: Germany
Style: Black/Speed Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 20 Oct 2023
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives

Diabolic Night have been around for a decade now and they released their debut in 2019, but they are new to me. They're Germans, based in North Rhine-Westphalia, and they play a combination of black and speed metal. I'd lean towards the latter as the primary component, because they sound old school when they play up the speed, more like a proto-black metal band. They often sound like early Whiplash with a veneer of black metal laid carefully over the top. However, many songs also feature sections where they tone down the speed and these have a tendency to feel far more like atmospheric black metal. Check out the beginning to Pandemonium for a great example.

Unusually for black/speed metal bands, Diabolic Night write longer tracks, all eight on offer here passing four minutes with a pair of more epic tracks that respectively approach seven and exceed eight. That allows them to set the stage on a track like Pandemonium, before launching into high gear to blister at us. It also allows them to take their time during the midsection for instrumental breaks. It's this structure that sells them to me, because it combines the blitzkrieg of black/speed metal with a more substantial proggy NWOBHM edge that I highly appreciate.

Each highlight for me does all of those three things, Pandemonium perhaps being my favourite of these tracks, with Voyage to Fortune close behind and pretty much everything else not far behind that one. Starlit Skies adds a couple of minutes, which doesn't remotely make the song too long; it simply blisters for longer in its core section and boasts a longer atmospheric outro. However, that song is followed by Vicious Assault, which ditches those extra subtleties and immediately finds top gear, reminding again of early Whiplash but with a Kreator-style chorus. It's the shortest track on offer at 4:12 and that makes a lot of sense.

Interestingly, they're primarily a one man band, that one man being Kevin Heier, owner of Mortal Rite Records, who performs as Heavy Steeler. He sings lead and plays all the guitars and bass, with occasional addition of synths. The only other musician in play is Christhunter, who may or may not be an actual member of the band as against a session hire. The generally reliable Metal Archives lists him as session only, but he served this role on both albums. It's telling that his approach is an old school speed metal one, rarely dipping into the traditional blastbeats of black metal.

I would guess that Heavy Steeler thinks of himself as a guitarist rather than a vocalist, because he shines brightest in that role, never feeling like he's overstretching himself, even at his fastest, but I rather like his vocals. They're raspy and deep but they're also mostly intelligible, so they're closer to thrash vocals than anything from black metal. He never shifts into growls or shrieks, though he does throw in a few death grunts here and there, underlining that there's a Celtic Frost influence here, along with Whiplash and early Bathory.

They collectively place the sound in the mid eighties but the slower sections are a little earlier. In songs like Starlit Skies and Arktares Has Fallen, they often reminded me of Paul Di'Anno-era Iron Maiden, of songs like Remember Tomorrow. That all works for me, because these are some of my favourite eras in metal, after the classic and prog rock of the seventies had been infused by punk energy and then started on the roads to extreme metal. I wasn't immediately sold on it, because Revelation is a long intro and Tales of Past & Mystery is my least favourite track proper, but it grew on me with repeat listens and The Sacred Scriptures and then Pandemonium were able to bring me firmly on board.

I don't believe Heavy Steeler plays with anyone else, but his tastes here make me wonder what he puts out on Mortal Rite. The only release I've reviewed here at Apocalypse Later is Lynx's Watcher of Skies, which I enjoyed, but as a hard and heavy band, they're at the lighter end of Mortal Rite's spectrum, which primarily revolves around speed, thrash and black metal, with those elements in combination more often than not. I should check out more.

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