Frankincense & Vitriol
Review by Vladimir on June 18, 2023.
For those of you who are so thirsty to ponder the orb, mix some dangerous chemicals, enchant items and read some magical incantations, you have come to the right place my friend. What you’re about to witness is an uncommon gift which was bestowed by the great elders. The topic of this review is Verzauber, a one-man atmospheric black metal band from Cork, Ireland, led by an anonymous individual who goes by the pseudonym of P. He released the band’s debut full-length album Frankincense & Vitriol as an independent release on their official Bandcamp page. From my very limited knowledge of German language, I assume that the band’s name means “Enchanter” or “Enchant”, because I recall the word “Zauberer” which means “Wizard”, so this must be something along that line. If you are ready to face this album’s unearthly enchantments, then stay awhile and listen…
When it comes to Verzauber’s approach to atmospheric black metal, the songwriting is consisted of all what you’d expect to hear from harsh screaming vocals to tremolo picking to double-bass drumming and blast beats, along with some keyboards to add some extra magic. The songs are very long, with the longest track being the final track 'The Beast Of Subterranean Rebirthbut' with 17 minutes and 47 second of length, but what’s actually great and refreshing for a change is that unlike many atmospheric black metal bands with repetitive and one-dimensional songwriting, the songs are filled, or better said, absolutely bombarded with complex and dynamic structures where various sections have their own flow of emotions rather than keeping it straight all the way through. What really amazed me here is that the songs despite their length actually have frequent vocals, rather than a bunch of instrumental sections on top of each other that lack any signs of life. The lyrics on each track are just as long as the songs, but as all song titles suggest, they’re very complex yet so well thought-out, with a strong focus on themes of mythology, philosophy, destiny and rebirth. The album’s length comes out to a total of an hour and 20 minutes, with the inclusion of two short interlude tracks, 'Opulence Drowned In Amber (The Dawning Waters Of Impermanence)' and 'Cloaked in The Shadow Of A Cast Spear (Guided By The Dread Hand Of Orion)', which are around a minute long. The riffs themselves may not be memorable or strong enough to be admired, but in my opinion, they do deserve to get some praise for managing to create this magical ambience where you just completely let go of your thoughts and let your mind experience the album’s atmosphere. The presentation on this album is very powerful with the album art which is absolutely full of details that will make you look at it for hours just so you can spot everything that’s displayed. The art depicts an enchanter with three ravens and a black dog/wolf inside a tower, where he’s holding a floating crystal in his hand with a book, a skull and crystal orb on his table, alchemist apparatus lying around with candles, an hourglass and a dagger, and even a figurine of the goddess Athena on the left. I am not sure about you but that is indeed a damn amazing art to look at, which was done by an Australian artist Mitchell Nolte. The art itself may not be something that you’d expect from a black metal or atmospheric black metal band, because let’s be honest it is also very well fitting for a Blind Guardian album as well, but nevertheless it is a great way to portray Verzauber’s musical background. Production-wise, the album sounds raw and harsh with its guitar distortion, drum sound and vocals, but it fits with the riffs and it creates an atmosphere of absolute dreary solitude where you’re feeling locked up.
Frankincense & Vitriol is somewhat a hard to describe album in terms of what it actually does to you as a listener, but it certainly did a great job of holding my attention from one track to another. It was impossible for me not to get sucked into its epic atmosphere throughout its entire one-hour span, and I hope that you will also be able to experience its unusual and mesmerizing moments. From what I’ve seen on Verzauber’s official Bandcamp page, everyone seems to like this album a lot and they praise it for what it is, so I think it’s safe to consider this a great start for a new one-man band such as Verzauber.
Rating: 8.3 out of 10634