Lord Belial - _The Black Curse_
(Regain Records, 2008)
by: Jackie Smit (
Let's get one thing straight: as far as I'm concerned, Lord Belial have a lot to make up for. Having part-compensated for a back catalogue that readily skated along the fringes of mediocrity with 2005's _Nocturnal Beast_, they swiftly unravelled their good work with a savage, tawdry blow in the shape of _Revelations_ two years later. That album stunk like blue cheese, and as a result left my expectations for a follow-up plumbing the sort of unfathomable depths that had previously only been explored by nature documentaries.As it turns out, Lord Belial's eighth full-length isn't bad at all. It's not the next _In the Nightside Eclipse_, but it also never pretends to be. "Pazazu - Lord of Fevers and Plague" starts things off on a menacing note, its gritty lead riff baring its teeth like Darkthrone used to before they discovered absinthe. The organic production helps thicken the old-school atmosphere substantially, while Micke Backelin's off-kilter drumming is both inventive and highly effective. Had this been the standard for the rest of the album, _The Black Curse_ could easily have been a contender as one of 2008's finest black metal offerings.Alas, such is not quite the case. "Sworn" finds the quartet aimlessly wandering around the deserted soundscapes of Sweden circa 1995, while "Ascension of Lilith" beats with all the crippled emotion of a bedraggled black metal keyboard warrior's wet dream. Thus, the album ends up not quite being the return to form it could have been, but ultimately at least a hop, skip and a shuffle in the right direction all the same.
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