Have you ever felt that two things that have no relation to each other in form or discipline are somehow linked? From the moment I looked at the cover art for Ars Veneficium’s latest album “The Reign of the Infernal King,” I felt an immediate connection between the album and Dante’s Divine Comedy, at least the Inferno portions. I tried hard to let that preliminary option color my view on the music but somehow again, after listen to the album twice through on a loop I came to the same conclusion: The Reign of the Infernal King is clearly linked in some strange cosmic way to the Divine Comedy. The overall sound and production, the artwork, the text, the subject matter. If was as if the band was playing to give the Inferno portion a believable and terrifying soundtrack.
Whether there was a conscious effort on behalf of the band or it’s just the overachieving theoretical portion of my brain trying to make a connection to work with, the question remains in my head, how do things that have seemingly nothing to do with each other in the world of art feel as though they are linked?
Let’s look first at the album itself. It’s loud, chaotic, and intense, just the way you would think it would sound like. It’s very reminiscent of “Twilight of the Idols” era Gorgoroth with a sound that seems to block out a lot of melody for sheer intensity but upon a closer listen the melodies are just more complex than you’d expect from a black metal album. I hesitate to call it a wall of sound but the music definitely fills the room. What the hell do I mean by that? I mean that once the music really begins to play it takes on sort of three dimensional qualities in which you can see the music form patterns, you can see images clearly because of the imaginative power of the music. It’s highly addicting, personally I’ve had The Reign of the Infernal King playing on a loop since early morning. The more intently you listen to the music, trying to pick out the different melodies, the more atmospheric the music becomes as well though I would never call Ars Veneficium an atmospheric black metal band. Rather I think the atmosphere is a byproduct of the music instead of the intended result. The atmosphere is hot and hellish, giving more credence to my theory that the album is somehow connected to or inspired by Dante’s Inferno.
Now to the connection that The Reign of the Infernal King as to Dante’s work. I listened all the way through the first time trying to dispel the idea, trying to let Ars Veneficium’s music speak for itself rather than apply a meaning to the band that was not actually intended by the band. What I received for that effort was an even clearer picture of a descent into the abyss juxtaposed against the rising up of this “Infernal King.” The music at the beginning is very chaotic, almost to a fault, much like you might expect the bowels of Hell to be, but the further the album went on and the further we “descended” the melodic patterns began to emerge. Could this have signaled the arrival of the “Infernal King?” It is the opinion of this reviewer that it is. The album closes with some of the most Dissection like music that I’ve heard since Storm of the Light’s Bane. I could honestly call them a possible successor without feeling like I was just making grandiose claims.
The album represents a journey, the same way the Inferno does, only in reverse and without the accompanying religious baggage. It’s a journey out of the depths of the abyss, retaining the wild rage and pain. The Reign of the Infernal King and music enshrined in it are audible examples of the rise of the will to power. Out of the fury and chaos the protagonist within this tale seizes power without regard and wields it without mercy and with absolute strength.
Despite the fact that there is a story being played out I hesitate to call this a concept album as a concept album usually tells the story from a fixed viewpoint and the sound does not typically progress from one end of the album to the other the way it does in The Reign of the Infernal King.
The album white knuckles the listener from the very first moment to the very last, it’s refreshingly intense and gives the black metal scene a breath of fresh air, metaphorically. I think I found a song that I would put on my writing playlist (something that through the 100+ albums I’ve listened to since the inception of Resounding Footsteps has happened less than half a dozen times). This is an album that needs to be on everyone’s radar, at least those that enjoy black metal that pushes the boundaries of intensity and musical talent. The Reign of the Infernal King is a culmination of many musical and literary influences that has some tremendous pay off. Listen to this album you fans of Gorgoroth, 1349, and Dissection.
Listen and support!