Well, it's not a name I would have suggested for a ripping black metal band, but Germany's SONIC REIGN make up for it with a solid debut album (not counting the demo) in "Raw Dark Pure". Consisting of members Ben (vocals, guitar) and Sebastian (drums), SONIC REIGN do a nice job of crafting songs that borrow liberally from the Norwegian greats without sounding completely derivative.
Most will find this virtually unknown quantity to be pleasantly surprising, thanks to the spirited playing and skillful arranging, not to mention the primal black metal foundation upon which the house of SONIC REIGN is constructed. The strength of SONIC REIGN is in its ability to come up with a variety of powerful and interesting riffs. Though there is plenty of blasting and ripping going on, songs like "Fucked Up But Glorious", "Tyrant Blessed", "To Rebel and To Fail" and "Salt" boast interesting chord progressions and memorable patterns, sometimes moving into catchy, DARKTHRONE groove territory. The pace is often up-tempo, but that in no way translates into mindless blasting, as "Reminiscence of Imperial Wrath" demonstrates. In short, there are some very cool things going on here.
The crisp and clear production is a bit of double-edged sword. The instrument separation in the mix, including the gruff, mid-range black metal vocals, crisp drumming, and clear guitar channels allows one to fully enjoy the song structures. At the same time, a dirtier mix would have given the songs a more menacing feel. It's less of a complaint than an admission that some may prefer a filthier approach. Besides, we're sure as hell not talking about a glossy studio treatment.
SONIC REIGN seems to be on the verge of creating black metal that is possessed of the intangibles that turn a collection of good songs into a transcendent black metal experience. I like what I'm hearing, and the disc gets better with every spin.