Artist: Lord Belial
Album Title: Rapture
Label: Hammerheart Records
Date of Release: 27 May 2022
Regrettably, this release ghosted past my radar initially during a busy period, so I was unable to get a review completed before its release. However, for a number of reasons, I had to write a review, even if it means that it comes to fruition a week or more after it’s release. The biggest, and most important of all the reasons is simply that this is the first full-length release from the stalwarts of the black metal scene since 2008. Dogged by health problems for drummer Micke Backelin, the band called it quits in early 2009, soon after the release of 2008’s ‘The Black Curse’, their eighth album. Lord Belial reformed, only to call it a day again in 2015 for health problems once again. It’s something of a pleasant surprise therefore to have them return in 2022 with their ninth album, ‘Rapture’.
The other very important reason for bringing this review is because the resultant creation is very impressive. Some might argue that this should be the most important reason, but without a band being together, all else is moot, because music cannot be created if there’s no band in the first place. Regardless, the fact remains that Lord Belial are back, and they are back with a real bang. Drummer Micke Backelin is joined by guitarist Niclas Pepa Green, and vocalist/guitarist Thomas Backelin, meaning that the key core trio are responsible for this impressive return.
Within seconds, it is absolutely evident that the trio have not lost an ounce of their energy, hunger, or menace. But, over the course of the 50-minute album, the Swedish trio demonstrate that, as venomous as they are, they have far more in their locker than just out-and-out aggressive malevolence. In fact, I’m going to say this now – this is up there with the very best black metal I’ve heard in quite a while. It has, for my tastes, an almost perfect blend of evil savagery, melody, and variety, making it rather hard to remove from my playlist.
‘Legion’, the opening salvo, is anything but subtle though, as it rips through the speakers with thunderous blastbeats, sharp and incisive fast-picked riffs, and Backelins spiteful, hate-fuelled dry rasping growls. It’s a full-on battery of unrelenting blackened power from the trio, spiced with the occasional wailing, spiralling lead break and slightly slower, almost groovy moments. But, for the most part, this is a monstrously extreme signalling of intent that I’ve grown to really enjoy.
If I had a very small gripe at all, it’d be the prominence of the snare drum in the mix. We’re not talking ‘St Anger’ levels of hideousness, but as ‘On A Throne Of Souls’ continues the onslaught of the opener, the loud snare does threaten my overall enjoyment just a little. It’s pretty much the only negative, but for the sake of transparency, it needed to be referenced. Otherwise, this song demonstrates the variety of ‘Rapture’ brilliantly. Fast, atmospheric, and melodic, it has it all. Choral vocals and well-placed synths inject added darkness, whilst the changes in pace keep the song interesting. And the final two minutes are fabulous, injecting some epic melody into the composition, showing the first signs that Lord Belial can temper their anger when required.
If you want a straight-up blast of black metal aggression, but with plenty of atmosphere and a hypnotic, rhythmic quality, ‘Rapture Of Belial’ is the song for you. It is properly sinister too, thanks to some cold tremolo leads and the introduction of haunting acoustic guitar notes alongside a stomping, march-like rhythm at times, especially within what passes as the chorus of the song.
As its name suggests, ‘Destruction’ is a shorter track that goes on the attack from the first second to the last, ending with some thrash-like wailing lead guitars. ‘Belie All Gods’ follows, and it noticeably lowers the pace to inject greater atmosphere and a sense of foreboding. We even get moments when nothing but the synths are present, as well as some heavily effect-laden spoken word embellishments. It happens to be a personal favourite too, because I just love the juxtaposition between the heaviness and the more subtle yet equally dark sections, not to mention the melodies that emerge as the song advances.
If anything, as the album advances, the music gets more and more melodic, with several of the songs delivering something truly memorable within them. In the case of ‘Evil Incarnate’, it’s the mid-tempo groovy to begin with, coupled with a gorgeous closing segment that’s dominated by a melodic lead guitar that adds a touch of memorable elegance to an already excellent song. For ‘Lux Luciferi’, it’s the lashings of Gothic-like synths alongside gently tinkling guitars and choral vocals that intersperse more extreme, fast-paced black metal aggression to great effect.
But, for me, the last two tracks, ‘Alpha and Omega’ followed by ‘Lamentations’ are two of the best, closing the record incredibly strongly. The former is melodic from the beginning, a sombre yet gloriously majestic composition that retains the bite of earlier tracks but isn’t afraid to go all out with a certain harrowing beauty. The pace is generally slower, with the wailing leads more poignant and less out of control, almost soulful if you can imagine such a thing. Blastbeats remain, as do the staccato riffs, but there’s more room for palpable emotion, as Lord Belial deliver their contender for one of the songs of the year.
The latter is ostensibly an instrumental, with a few moments of spoken word added for good measure. It is well named too, as it feels like a solemn lament; cold and intimidating yet warm and elegant at the same time. Again, as with the former, the melodies are arresting, especially when a greater orchestral element is introduced after the halfway mark, leading to a thoroughly rousing and suitably powerful ending to the album. It may have taken 14 years to see the light of day but as far as I’m concerned, it has been more than worth the wait. I absolutely love this album and, if quality black metal is a favourite of yours, then you will too. Without doubt, with ‘Rapture’, Lord Belial have released my favourite out-and-out black metal record of the year so far.
The Score of Much Metal: 94%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: