Review by Fernando on October 9, 2023.
The death of Baron Blood from the cult favorite Greek black metal band Necromantia was a tragedy in the world of extreme metal, and of course, his bandmate and co-founder of the band, Magus Wampyr Daoloth, aka George Zacharopoulos did a fitting tribute in the form of a final album which preempted the band finally being put to rest. And then, a year later, Magus decided he wasn’t done doing music and announced a new eponymous solo project with drummer extraordinaire Maelstorm (who also contributed to the final Necromantia album), and Bill Zobolas aka El handling the guitars, and now in 2023, through The Circle Music, The Magus unveils his new opus Βυσσοδομώντας (Vissodomontas).
With all that out of the way, what does The Magus bring forth since Necromantia, as he put it “descended into the abyss”? Well, if you want classic Hellenic black metal, complete with occult atmospheres, classic metal inspired riffs, and symphonic elements that make the music sound epic without coming off as cheesy, the The Magus certainly delivers, and most importantly, while the music is very much in line with Zacharopoulos’ previous work in Necromantia, Thou Art Lord, Yoth Iria and even early Rotting Christ, Βυσσοδομώντας is a completely unique beast in its own right, with a completely different approach and execution.
Getting into specifics, this record’s music is very ornate and grandiose, aside from the inclusion of choirs and keyboards here and there, the music is by far Zacharopoulos’ darkest and most ambitious. The promotional singles ‘Lux Tenebrarum: The Illuminating Darkness’ and the title track display those qualities best, from the heavy riffs, dynamic compositions, inclusion of choirs and keyboards, and maintaining a dark atmosphere from beginning to end and with an appropriately disharmonic and very aggressive sonic approach that’s more in line with death metal than the traditionally melodic and doomy Hellenic black metal, but make no mistake, this is pure black metal both in essence and in presentation.
The deep cuts of the record are the real treat to hear, as you get to hear The Magus display his mastery of black metal, with both modern and vintage influences, while also incorporating more esoteric sounds, and even folkloric Greek music and without any of those eclectic elements feeling out of place or forced in, it all comes together excellently and the end result is an album that feels fresh and classic simultaneously, with the best example being the track ‘Ama Lilith’ which starts as an epic and intense pastiche of black metal and then has an extended bridge section that’s the ululating vocals and the vicious exclamations of IDVex and Hel Pyre, with traditional Greek music with keyboards to provide a suitably Mediterranean and ominous ambiance, which then culminates with a return to the epic black metal and choral chants of 'Ama Lilith'.
This album also has some of the best instrumentation and performances on a Magus project yet, which isn’t surprising as Zacharopoulos is a masterclass musician and his bandmates talents also speak for themselves, I’d even say that El and Maelstrom steal the show if only by a small margin since The Magus’ bass playing and his vocals are as top notch as ever. The guests on this record also bring their own flare, I already mentioned IDVex and Hel Pyre bringing their powerful voices, but there’s also King Dude with his dark crooning on the closing and one of the best tracks of the record, ‘Give The Devil His Due: The Story’ which opens with a Jazz-driven bass, guitar and piano combo and it still fits with the rest of the record, which is insane and a testament of how good this record truly is. Then there’s also Septicflesh’s own Christos Antoniou doing what he does best with the choir arrangements that truly boost the album’s orchestral ambitions, and finally, frequent Magus collaborator and former Swan Christie member Iraklis Gialantsidis providing the keyboards to great effect, after years of collaborating with Zacharopoulos in past albums, these two men are truly in sync when it comes to the inclusion of keyboards into their music.
To conclude the final unsung hero of this record and the man who truly made this record sound as good as it is is the always great George Emmanuel handling the production, the man at this point is the go-to producer to make black metal that sounds authentic and organic, since every instrument and vocal pops in a natural way. George Zacharopoulos has always been open about how much Mercyful Fate and King Diamond influenced him, and this record’s sound is an excellent display of that influence as it has that classic recording sound of albums like “Melissa” and ‘Don’t Break The Oath’.
There really is very little to complain here, a lot of us thought that after Necromantia ended, George Zacharopoulos would just sit back and enjoy the fruit of his labor, but clearly and in his own words, “the fire never died”, and this record is proof of that.
Best tracks: ‘The Fall Of Man’ ‘Lux Tenebrarum: The Illuminating Darkness’ ‘Ama Lilith’ ‘The Peacock King’ ‘Give The Devil His Due: The Story’
Rating: 10 out of 101.16k