29 September 2023 was a sombre day in the Welsh Black Metal scene. For several years prior to this announcement, Black Pyre, originally a solo project for Asbjorn Daemonium de Noctis, had transformed into a fully-fledged outfit. They travelled the length of this land, making occasional forays to the frozen Northern Isles, including a memorable show in Norway.
Black Pyre – Fall Of The Northern Kingdom
Release Date: 24 November 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
Several hard battles were fought in the Metal To The Masses competitions. The band reached the final on more than one occasion. Their debut EP, The Forbidden Tomes, showed promise, which matured in 2020 with the Winter Solstice album. That featured long-time members Kjottflate the Mighty Ravendork, drummer Dominus de Octopus and guitarist Olthigor Doombeard.
Despite the ludicrous names, this quartet scored highly in the review stakes, with a 99% score on The Metal Archives for starters. Two live albums were also released, both showcasing the raw talent which was simmering inside.
But the gods were shaping other plans. Asbjorn and Dominus were enticed to even darker pastures as vocalist and drummer, respectively, for South Wales newcomers Ofnus. This led to the excellent release of debut album Time Held Me Grey And Dying. Live shows across the UK followed, including a Sunday morning slot at Bloodstock.
The writing was on the wall. On 29 September, Asbjorn announced the demise of Black Pyre as a band. But all is not lost, for Asbjorn has regrouped, refocused, and returned to the origins of Black Pyre. Now is the dawn of the new chapter of Black Pyre, in the shape of Fall Of The Northern Kingdom.
It’s a fine album. A potent and heady mix which evokes the spirits of Black Metal – both old-school and contemporary. The first single Pale Orchid has tinges of Opeth’s delicate edges. A simple, repeated riff is slowly joined by an intense swelling of atmosphere, keys, and choral elements combined before an eruption of powerful guitar and drums propel the song forward.
It’s an evocative track, with Asbjorn’s talent for combining different elements at the fore. His croaking delivery, the intensity of the overall feel, and the bookending acoustic riff all combine.
Whilst the use of synths is a staple of the Black Pyre sound, so is the explosive rawness that epitomises the huge range of influences that seep into the very soul of the music. Withering Winter, the second release from the album, sticks to a more traditional style with frantic drums and a galloping tempo.
Yet even in this traditional style, there is something different that stands apart. Whether it’s the overall combination of approaches, the variance with the classic format or the overall change in approach to his songwriting that has organically occurred, the broader sound is pleasing to the ear.
Rivers Of Tears And Blood combines all these elements with the use of ambient sound before a real foray into the Northern sky with a battering of Black Metal whose roots sit deep in the old school.
Whilst all the tracks have merit, it’s the finale that escalates things to another level. The Pale is an ambitious 14-minute song that begins with Asbjorn’s now-established croaking vocal and evolves into an epic, sprawling piece which throws in some wider twists and turns along the way. Harmony vocals, in combination with the underlying synths and a driving riff, propel the song forward to its ethereal conclusion.
Fall of the Northern Kingdom is an impressive piece of work which grows with every listen. Where Asbjorn goes from here is another matter, but for now, enjoy this latest piece of work from a very talented musician.