A PALE DECEMBER – THE SHRINE OF PRIMAL FIRE (Avantgarde Music)
The first full-length album from Italian black metalers A Pale December, The Shrine of Primal Fire has arrived to grace our ear holes after two years of waiting. The band looks up to several different influences, first and foremost from Agalloch intimacy and naturalistic poetry, to Katatonia melancholy, all melting in a somewhat blackgaze-ish, round kindness. Fans of atmospheric metal are in for a real treat here.
The opener is called “The Path of Stars”. It’s filled with slick riffs and thundering drums. It’s long, but it’s got enough kick to keep you interested from start to finish. In fact, almost every track on this album is long. “Arboreal Sanctuary” is even longer, and it’s a bit slower in places, but it picks up where it needs to, at times punching you in the face with its heaviness right after lulling you with its melodies. “Midwinter Ritual” starts off with a slow, melodic instrumental piece before slightly picking up the tempo with a smooth riff, and then kicking it up to high gear with blast beats and superior shredding before going back to smooth, melodic riffs again.
When “Skygazer” begins, an atmospheric calm washes over everything, but soon enough the heavy riffs rush in and are complimented with a brief, low vocal element. The whole thing is pretty damn catchy. The tempo slows down at points returning you to that sense of calm, but the heaviness always comes back just in case you felt too safe. Ymir shows off his drum programming skills on “Cimmerian Veil” which also features some killer guitar and pretty impressive vocals.
“Call of the Ancients” is a two-minute instrumental track that’s barely worth mentioning, as there’s really nothing noteworthy going on there. It feels as though it’s more like an intermission before the incredibly daunting final track “A Lost Lineage,” which comes in at a whopping thirteen minutes and fifty-five seconds. This track oozes with atmosphere. There are times when it picks itself up and forcefully reminds you that this is a fucking metal song, particularly the middle of the track, but the rest of it can almost be soothing. Almost.
Instrumentally, The Shrine of Primal Fire is on point, and the fact that there are only two members of the band makes it just that much more impressive. The vocal elements are barely audible at times, but while that would be a fault for any other album, it actually works here. This isn’t an album you put on while you’re in your car on a road trip, or while working out, but it does make a fantastic soundtrack for any dark fantasy related thing, like a video game or a movie. Or a game of Dungeons & Dragons, if that’s your thing. Final score: 4 out of 5 axes.
The Path of Stars
Call of the Ancients
A Lost Lineage
Korpsvart (Riccardo Di Bella) – Guitars, Lyrics, Vocals
Ymir (Ernesto Ciotola) – Vocals, Bass Guitar, Drum programming, Guitar
Written by Mitch Ellerbrock for Bloodrock Media on December 6, 2017