So I was very pleased that when the first song (after a appropriately evil intro) ‘Damnation of the soul’ blasted through my headphones I knew immediately: ‘this is going to be good...’. The first thing I noticed about the album is that somehow I had some preconceptions about how this was going to sound. For some reason I expected this to sound more raw, more lo-fi, more, I don’t know, 1990s... Maybe that’s because previous IFP releases took me back the early 1990s so much.. But ‘The Reign Of The Infernal King’ is well.. almost modern sounding. The whole production is so powerful, so rich.. Very bass-heavy too, which is fairly uncommon in black metal as we all know. The more I listen to it, the more obvious it is that a lot of thought and effort has been put in to make it sound like this. Well done.
Music wise it is a very well balanced mixture of various black metal styles. The 90s influence is very apparent of course but there are some very nice guitar solos that hearken back to the classic 80s black metal of Bathory and the likes. Some classic Swedish sounds in the vein of Dissection and Marduk as well. Another band I’m very much reminded of is Beherit (especially their 2009 album Engram), albeit Ars Veneficium is, dare I say, much more refined and sophisticated (for lack of a better word). I know that namedropping is easy and lazy, but it is also to illustrate the fact that I feel Ars Veneficium can easily hold its own when matched against those masters. The large variety of styles and tempos make for a very compelling album too, it never gets boring, not even a second.
I already spoke about the production, which in my opinion is what makes this album stand out. Every element in itself is pretty damn good: killer riffs, the aforementioned very prominent bass, some very tight drums (that I had to double check if they weren’t from a drumcomputer; they’re that tight!) all accompanied by S.'s immensely powerful vocals. But all this could have gone terribly wrong in the hands of a less capable mixing or mastering technician.
But it hasn’t. It has gone terribly right. I know I say this about pretty much every IFP release but everything sounds just so right, so spot-on, that I’m not afraid to proclaim that Ars Veneficium have released an album that can easily match itself with the best that black metal has to offer these days. Absolutely essential. This will very likely end up in my end of year list!