BLACK CRUCIFIXION
"Faustian Dream"

(Paragon)

01. Faustian Dream
02. As Black As the Roses (As Weak As My Smile)
03. Bible Black Tyrant
04. Wrath Without Hate
05. Where Will You Hide
06. Winterkill
07. Scandinavian Melancholy
08. Frailest
09. Faustian Scream

RATING: 8/10

After being present for the birth of the Scandinavian black metal scene in the early '90s, then turning their back on its conventions as they turned into clichés, BLACK CRUCIFIXION spent a decade working on this, their first (!) full-length album. Don't expect Satanic verses or screeching vocals here, though, as the band has evolved into a dark, depressive outfit with very impressive results.

Opening with a simple, sorrowful acoustic passage augmented by synthesized strings, "Faustian Dream" evokes a haunting, cinematic feel, an atmosphere of desolate and fogbound landscapes. Though guitars and drums soon crash in, that feeling remains throughout, as the band keeps the tempos slow, the vocals anguished and theatrical, and the riffs somber and sodden. Songs like "Bible Black Tyrant" recall some of the more depressive moments in CELTIC FROST's "Into the Pandemonium" era, as filtered through the UK doom of early ANATHEMA and MY DYING BRIDE.

This is dark metal that owes as much to early CURE as it does to its own blackened past. It drips with a rainy, sorrowful pathos, with guitar lines that positively ache (just listen to the lead break in the masterful "Bible Black Tyrant"). The result is a very timeless, classic-sounding album, echoing its atmospheric vibe from the early-to-mid 1990s, spiritual kin to TIAMAT's "The Astral Sleep" and a dozen pretentious French avant-garde black metal bands.

The riffing here is quite simple, though the occasional progressive streak shows its way through (see the recurring hook in "Faustian Scream"). For the most part, though, BLACK CRUCIFIXION create this ethereal mournfulness out of the most basic building blocks, tied together with a hopeless, plaintive chorus or a couple well-placed riffs. They have that primal, alchemal sense of exactly what to use when — this is a short, very direct album, but it still feels like a long journey through a darkened and oppressive realm.

"Faustian Dream" is well worth hunting down and supporting. Its organic melding of classic doom, black metal aura, and depressive goth-rock is quite a feat — anyone into the glumness of KATATONIA, the lush sorrow of MY DYING BRIDE or the martial melancholy of "Hammerheart"-era BATHORY will find "Faustian Dream" immensely satisfying.

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