Rewind ten-fourteen years to Dødsengel’s glorious formative years, when the self-proclaimed Norwegian angel of death arrived with murderous intent into a somewhat stagnant Black Metal scene and sent tremors through the underground with a sensational series of extraordinary revelations conjured within a remarkably short period of time. Those inspired, prolific seminal days gave rise to an unholy trailblazing triumvirate of full-lengths – the aptly-named ‘Visionary’, the divine ‘Mirium Occultum’ and the epic (and yet-to-emerge-on-vinyl) ‘Imperator’ – as well as four immense EPs and iconic split LPs with Hetroertzen and Nightbringer.
All nine of these wondrous releases manifested between 2009 and 2013, Dødsengel securing its legacy as one of Black Metal’s most distinctive and exceptional entities. A decade on, not much has changed. While all of the aforementioned works still stand as timeless monuments of unorthodox occult decadence and darkness, Dødsengel continues to channel the most immaculate, eerie and unnerving art, with fifth full-length ‘Bab Al On’ easily on a par with anything from the nigh-on-perfect back catalogue of spiritual corruption.
True to form, the demonic duo has crafted another immense, sprawling, immersive work of art, this newest record delivering a sophisticated tapestry of no fewer than eleven Babylonian curses, with a massive combined running time in excess of 72 minutes. Here is a record that demands a huge investment of time and contemplation from the listener, which is richly rewarded as the mercurial magick of ‘Bab Al On’ is gradually unveiled. If you are looking for a quick fix of the latest thing, then this is not for you.
Unsurprisingly, given Kark’s prowess as a producer of note, ‘Bab Al On’ boasts a sumptuous sound, darkness and beauty coalescing seamlessly in a sonic and literary maelstrom of menace, majesty and musicality. Absorbed patiently as a whole, it’s a captivating experience – the dark depths of the human soul plummeted on this disturbing but enriching voyage accentuated by unexpected moments of illumination, elevation and sheer splendour, lending the music an authentic black mass persona.
The vinyl edition of ‘Bab Al On’ is exquisite. The breath-taking artwork takes on a life of its own in the gigantic gatefold jacket format, the twelve-page full-size booklet reeks of quality and class, the records sound fantastic and a download card is even included so everybody gets the best of both worlds. There are surprises and curveballs aplenty along the way, not least in the naked vulnerability and melancholy of the penultimate offering ‘Dies Irae’, as Dødsengel’s singular ambition and unerring craftsmanship once more succeeds spectacularly in shaping a unique Black Metal masterpiece that stands fearless, peerless.