Queen Of Darkness by Servants of the Apocalyptic Goat RaveRelease date: January 22, 2018
Label: Svart Lava
Much as I love the Florentine poet, I have always preferred my Hells to be more Doom than Dante; the jackhammer cacophony of infernal industry, seared flesh and blackened iron blending into ghastly new forms, a filthy pall of bone dust and smog hanging over lakes of boiling toxic waste, endless screams from augmented throats. Interesting then that Servants Of The Apocalyptic Goat Rave, namely Jason ‘Bong-Ra’ Kohnen and Jurgen ‘Sickboy’ Desmet, have brought a perfect soundtrack for that vision in this, their second full-length.
I have to caveat this review by saying that Queen Of Darkness is almost custom-made to appeal to all the over-the-top fragments of music that I love – Limbonic Art and Dodheimsgard’s co-option of industrial drum-machines into black metal, the delicious euphoria of hardcore rave, that mad period in the late-90s when Earache decided that what the world needed was metal/techno mash-up albums, Rotterdam gabber’s overclocked drum machines – but that very few other people seem to be able to tolerate. Or, at least, not laugh at openly.
If nothing I’ve said in that previous paragraph appeals to you, or you simply don’t understand a word of it, then it might be best If you move on. Just move right along.
Still there? All three of you? Good. Now, I’ll let you into a secret. This album makes me laugh, too. Not derisively, nor the knowing smirk of irony but a genuine, shrill cackle of head-banging glee. It is so frenzied, so nearly tripping over itself as it rushes headlong to who knows where, yet so blisteringly serious about what it’s doing that it evokes a black metal spirit far more true than the regurgitated mediocrity of most bands that lurk under the banner. Which is not as weird as it first sounds because what’s more true to the original punk and underground ethos of black metal, the two-fingers-against-the-establishment attitude and the search for sonic extremity than the culture of illegal raves?
What works with Queen Of Darkness when so many other attempts at blending guitars and electronic beats don’t (oh hai Remanufacture) is that it sounds cohesive from the very beginning. This isn’t a set of remixes or an ill-advised foray into another genre but a single vision from musicians who understand the texture and power of the individual elements. In a manner similar to The Soft Pink Truth’s ‘Why Do The Heathen Rage’, another record that takes black metal and spins it into dance music, Servants Of The Apocalyptic Goat Rave manage to highlight the better elements of each style by reflecting them against each other. Elements which would be repetitive by themselves, whether punishing techno beats or shrieked vocals, becomes nuanced. Equally, at a rapid-fire 26 minutes, the album doesn’t outlast its novelty but builds through increasingly wild sprays of machine-gun drums that alternate with rich synth vistas to a finale in ‘Mortal Bodies’ where Tera, the titular Queen of Darkness from Hammer’s ‘Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb’ intones darkly over scything guitars and blurring beats. It’s a blend of traditional and contemporary, analogue and digital that works wonderfully until the whole thing finally flies off into the void, howling.
This isn’t an album for everyone. Many will find it gimmicky and annoying, neither one thing nor the other. Black metal traditionalists will chew their patch jackets in a berzerker frenzy, drum and bass enthusiasts will find it far too lacking in warmth and groove. Those who truly delight in the perversity of acid house stabs over extreme metal riffing, however, will find a lot to help their souls wander amongst the boundless blackness between the stars…
They blended each with each in such a way
that, while the serpent fork-wise clove its tail,
the wounded man together drew his feet.
The legs and with them ev’n the very thighs
so stuck together, that in little time
their juncture left no mark that could be seen.
Dante Alighieri, Inferno XXV