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Midnatsb​ø​n Ved Dj​æ​velens Port

Denmark Country of Origin: Denmark

Midnatsb​ø​n Ved Dj​æ​velens Port
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Buy on: Bandcamp
Type: Full-Length
Release Date: December 8th, 2023
Label: Signal Rex
Genre: Black
1. Mareredet Hyrdetime
2. Bestænkt Af Syndens Vievand
3. Med Korstegn Og Grådkvalt Fadervor
4. Asken Fra Hendes Brænden
5. Fortabt Moribund


Review by Benjamin on December 29, 2023.

The nature of their primarily raw black metal roster means that Signal Rex are responsible for a certain amount of mediocrity, foisted onto a possibly now-suspecting European underground metal scene. This is not intended especially as a criticism, but more of a reflection over the inevitability of a regression to the mean when maintaining the prolific release schedule that this label manages, a fact probably magnified by their reliance on a sub-genre that is fundamentally primitive and regressive. However, this also means that they are extremely responsive when something more interesting emerges from the morass of bands that Signal Rex are seemingly monitoring across many of the current hotbeds of black metal. Denmark's Geistaz'ika are one such proposition, and their second album, Midnatsbøn Ved Djævelens Port, is an enthralling and captivating work. The brief, folky introduction gives little indication of the forthcoming blizzard of blasting drums and trebly guitars that will ensue, but it serves to set the tone beautifully, immediately evoking the classic strains of Ulver and Abigor, while also bringing a medieval feel and sensibility to the band's sonic palette. 

The first metallic track, 'Bestaenkt Af Syndens Vievand' takes this feel and runs with it through forest and fjord, mesmerising with its epic length and balance of brutality and melody. While the tremolo lines that float amorphously above the perma-blast will not be unfamiliar to fans of key second-wave acts such as Setherial, early Enslaved, and Blut Aus Nord, the unorthodox interplay between the expected black metal elements and a number of other compositional touches elevates Geistaz'ika's music well above conventional Norsecore. In particular, the off-kilter production that occasionally prioritises the chanting of the Moonsorrow-like clean vocals, together with the insertion of sometimes incongruous synth and string sounds is especially pleasing, and showcases the fascinating spectacle of a band that cannot quite control the elemental forces that they are working with, as unstoppable melodies and harmonies force their way briefly into the foreground, only to be buried once more by the rampaging guitars. It all serves to give the band a fierce individuality that helps them stand apart from the Darkthrone and Burzum imitators that they could so easily have found themselves adding to. It also lends the album a timeless quality, as if it could have been released at any point since the early 1990s, and this prevents the band's music from sounding dated, even while it references the masterful works of those that came before them.

Like a long ascent to a mountainous peak, the entire album is making its arduous way to a final monstrous track, the 20 minute long 'Fortabt Moribund', which cycles through hypnotic harmonised riffs, and lengthy instrumental passages, in which the band continue to layer baroque instrumentation over the more conventional black metal that underpins their sound. The way in which acoustic melodies sometimes act as a counterpoint to the minor key tremolos, and at other times take precedence reminds the listener again of a less dizzying Abigor, but also of the early Judas Iscariot and Xasthur albums, which played with the balance of the mix in a similarly disorienting way. Geistaz'ika are less savage than their US predecessors though, the soothing, but stirring, chanted harmonies resounding like the pious prayers of the already damned, singing from somewhere beyond this realm. As the riffing vanishes part way through the closer, replaced gradually by flighty arpeggios, the vocals continue to layer spectral harmonies, adding a romantic feel not unlike Këkht Aräkh's Pale Swordsman, before the song builds to a rapturous final climax, in which the almost choral blend of voices are joined by rasping shrieks, fragments of piano, and mournful guitar melodies. Geistaz'ika have found a real niche here, offering thoroughly memorable and majestic black metal, delivered with an utterly esoteric approach, with rich rewards in store for those who choose to venture deep enough to find them.

Rating: 9.1 out of 10

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Review by TheOneNeverSeen on December 3, 2023.

Geistaz'ika's sophomore effort definitely meets the standards set by Trolddomssejd I Skovens Dybe Kedel, for it is a consistent, highly engrossing black metal piece that definitely stands out from lots of well-produced but not memorable or inspiring artists of the genre's modern scene that I frequently stumble upon. It takes the listener on a cold 50-minute journey perfect as a soundtrack for the advent of winter.

Like its predecessor, the album starts with a short track which I LOVE. The clean guitar and piano create a truly sinister atmosphere, while the clean singing combined with dissonant whispers adds to the overall mysterious feeling of the song. The intro of Trolddomssejd I Skovens Dybe Kedel wasn't bad by any means, but it wasn't nearly as remarkable (despite using similar ideas). So, the new album shows a clear improvement in this sense. Then, the album throws an excellent atmospheric black metal riff of 'Bestænkt af syndens vievand' at you. It is as epic as the first metal riff of Geistaz'ika's debut (that of 'Når solen bløder rød'), but the aforementioned clean singing, guitar, bass and... owl noises? at 3:33 aid to diversify the song structure, ensuring the melody is not overly redundant. The cleaner and rawer segments are professionally cojoined, constantly seizing and then suddenly releasing the listener from the enshrouding flow of tranquillity, allowing them to fall in the song's relentless chaos. The way the atmospheric piano and clean vocals close the song reminds me a lot of the way the same tools was employed on 'Dødens horeunge' and it works as perfectly here as it did there. So, never getting boring or predictable 'Bestænkt af syndens vievand' is a brilliant song to be the album's opening metal track and also a great song to get acquainted with the band.

The remaining tracks are also highly atmospheric with 'Med korstegn og grådkvalt fad' effectively conveying the 'I Am Abomination'-like feeling of being chased in a forest with an arrow in your shoulder, 'Asken fra hendes' immersing the listener in nearly DSBM-level trepidation and uncertainty and 'Fortabt moribund' constantly shifting between excitement and calmness (the latter often achieved through the use of beautiful piano) with the passage at 10:52 being highly reminiscent of Xasthur. The album doesn't possess solos like the great one of 'I den spejlvendte verden', but I don't view it as a downside considering how diverse it is.

So far I have mentioned how some elements used in Trolddomssejd I Skovens Dybe Kedel have been bound with the band's sound and songwriting on Midnatsbøn Ved Djævelens Port even better than on its predecessor, but now it's time to discuss the significant changes to the band's sound. It has certainly become cleaner, the instruments are combined much more nicely with each other. While it does cause the album to lose the early Burzum-like rawness that, for example, multiplied the atmosphere of the riff of 'Når solen bløder rød' by 10, I think the advantages outweigh the drawbacks. The music of Midnatsbøn Ved Djævelens Port is much more complex, mature and diverse with the cleaner sections, bass and drumming that is easier to discern due to the album's production greatly contributing to its successful exploration of a huge spectrum of emotions. The play with left and right channels that I haven't really come across on the band's debut also assists in the creation of its uneven atmosphere. Overall, there is less anger in the album and more epicness, rumination, perseverance, chill. As an appreciator of experiments and originality, I can only welcome these changes and I think Geistaz'ika has definitely moved in the right direction with this album.

So, Midnatsbøn Ved Djævelens Port further consolidates Geistaz'ika's position as one of my favorite modern Danish black metal artists. An excellent record possessing everything a black metal album needs to possess and also marking a significant shift in Geistaz'ika's songwriting that makes me very excited for their future material.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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