DEATH AND THE BEYOND by DENIAL OF GOD

Release date: July 13, 2012
Label: HELL'S HEADBANGERS RECORDS

Black metal. The genre of music I love more than any other. For me, and this sounds highly pretentious, the most important question to ask oneself when considering a piece of music (or any other form of art) is not ‘what did I think?’ but ‘what did I feel?’. I want music to take me on a journey and to generate involuntary emotional responses and visual imagery which transports me away from wherever I am and whatever I am doing. Good black metal makes me feel as if I’m standing on the edge of a frozen Nordic fjord in bright moonlight surrounded by snow covered peaks, or drifting through a Lovecraftian subterranean-underworld of unspeakable horrors, or otherwise transported to some other place. Denial of God’s 2012 album Death and the Beyond is my quintessential example of an album which offers this level of escapism. Only their second full length album in two decades of output mainly consisting of EPs and demos, Death and the Beyond is a stunning concept album featuring a Poe-esque ghost story of death and the afterlife told through well constructed and addictive songs which generate a powerful atmosphere.

Stylistically the album mixes elements of first and second wave black metal, drawing heavily from both. This may sound worrying to the black metal purest but fear not, there is plenty of no nonsense black metal within this album. However, there is also some phenomenal guitar work which when you first hear it will make you stop whatever you’re currently doing to just listen, I am also prone to grinning stupidly throughout some of the best parts. The songs all have a similar feel and style which helps with continuity and the atmosphere is further enhanced with piano and strings being used to bridge songs. The vocals are generally a fairly typical growl from lead singer Ustumallagam, but it is also easy to make out the lyrics which, given the storytelling intention of the album, makes them exactly what is needed.

Altogether these individual aspects combine into what for me is pure nectar. Listening to Death and the Beyond you feel all the loss of death, experience the horror of realising that it is you who has died and then the terror of being buried, undead and alone. The music itself is a staggering achievement and well worth the 20 year incubation period. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this album is fun. It has groove and style and is exciting and original and it reminds me why I fell in love with metal in the first place. I heartily recommend giving this album a go, it most definitely deserves more recognition and airtime.

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