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The Royal Arch Blaspheme *
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  • The Royal Arch Blaspheme is a collaboration between two major figures in U.S. black metal: vocalist N. Imperial of Krieg, Nachtmystium, and Twilight, among others, and multi-instrumentalist John Gelso, who's best known for his work in Profanatica. Gelso's music here is ugly, but quite carefully crafted; this is no one-rehearsal slash-and-burn session, but a carefully thought-out work. Imperial's vocals are harsh and distorted, as the genre requires, but they're not particularly unique, just a kind of angry gurgling and roaring. Gelso, though, is truly talented, as good at playing blasting drumbeats as he is at crafting buzzsaw guitar riffs that, on tracks like "Jahbulon," harmonize with each other in a manner that's pretty beautiful. The bass intro to "Isaiah 14:12" is almost enough to move small objects off the listener's shelves, though the song as a whole is letdown by an overly static riff. It's not all 1000-mph blasting, either; on "Via Crucis" and "Kingdom of Perversions," the band slows down to a death march tempo that's very effective. This is an excellent album that demonstrates the continued vitality of black metal in the hands of serious musicians. ~ Phil Freeman
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