Swedish Black Metal band Lord Belial formed in the latter part of the second wave of Black Metal in Europe, but it wasn’t until the release of their eighth studio album in 2008, The Black Curse, that I first crossed paths with them. It was an album that utterly blew me away with its engagingly dynamic brutality.
Lord Belial – Rapture (Hammerheart Records)
Release Date: 27 May 2022
Words: Jools Green
I was saddened to hear in 2015 that they had put the band on hold, possibly permanently, largely due to drummer Micke’s ongoing battle with Tinnitus. This had become increasingly problematic for him over the years, something I can fully appreciate as a fellow sufferer.
However, it was hugely exciting news for thousands of Lord Belial fans and myself when they reformed in 2020 and then, a couple of months ago, revealed a new track, On A Throne Of Souls, along with the promise of this latest album, Rapture. This release is undoubtedly set to be the Black Metal highlight for 2022 for many of us, and they have set the bar high with this album.
Rapture is ten tracks. Coming in just under the fifty-minute mark, it’s apparent soon into the playing time that their hiatus has rekindled the fire in their hearts. They’ve delivered a sound that is raw, powerful and dynamic, with a lot of care paid to the details.
Your attention is held throughout because it’s such a well-varied offering, ranging from fast and furious blackened attacks to, at times, songs which are more towards the epic but doomy and atmospheric end of the spectrum. All the while maintaining that brutal grip on your senses.
Rapture opens on Legion, which, straight from the offset, drives at you with blackened brutality, dropping back briefly into a haunting melodic pace before unleashing multiple busts of squealing leadwork, the raw scathing vocal delivery carving a path through the sound.
On A Throne Of Souls continues in the aural assault of its predecessor with waves of undulating riffs, plenty of punch and a dark melodic quality, at times reminiscent of Naglfar.
One of the longer tracks, Rapture Of Belial, arrives like a huge striding beast. It’s dark, sinister and crushing, bathing you in a sea of intense riffs, the pace constantly building and ebbing. A brilliantly engaging, epic and dramatic piece, also offering a good range of vocals adding even more depth and atmosphere to the track.
Destruction does exactly as its title promises, opening on a storm soundbite and breaking into a torrent of blackened riffing, the vitriolic vocals lashing out with malice, the whole thing driving through relentlessly, metaphorically destroying all in its path.
In contrast Belie All Gods is a slower, more hauntingly dark affair, progressing as a steady dramatic plod, hugely atmospheric with distant backing choral chants and unnervingly phrased vocals, along with spoken and elements, dramatic ebbs and pauses, switching direction in the second half to cleaner guitarwork and hauntingly melodic leadwork that soars then fades with the track.
Evil Incarnate is a solid punchy driver end to end, overlaid with a powerful acidic vocal delivery, but maintaining that all necessary ebb and build throughout, dropping away in the second half for a haunting swath of leadwork, that, although I could sense its imminent arrival, the first time around, it still surprised me.
Next, Lux Luciferi, a dark and intense offering where repeat riff patterns are interspersed with epic and atmospheric passages, with ground shaking growls alongside the more acidic vocals, completed with beautifully haunting leadwork, a powerful and moving piece.
Infinite Darkness And Death, another longer piece, builds rapidly into an intense fury of riffs, dropping back dramatically in the second half briefly for a well-placed, deep spoken segment whereas Alpha And Omega is haunting and atmospheric, with epically emotive leadwork still maintaining a dark brutal edge, again very powerful.
The final piece Lamentations is subtly orchestrated, with doomy dark riffs, unnerving spoken vocals and choral chanting backing vocals alongside hauntingly melancholic leadwork, all of which come together to make a subtly understated yet extraordinarily impressive closing piece.
Rapture was recorded by Andy LaRoque (of King Diamond/Death fame) in the Sonic Train Studios in Varberg, Sweden, who last worked with the band seventeen years ago on their Nocturnal Beast album, with artwork by Mike Hrubovcak (Visual Darkness).
Forget favourite tracks, this is an end-to-end work of brilliance.
Rapture will be available from hammerheartstore.com as a CD, limited edition box set CD, limited edition vinyl in four colours, or on cassette from dissonanttapes.com and as a digital download from Bandcamp.