Ceremonial Castings - _Into the Black Forest of Witchery_
(Dark Forest Productions, 2008)
by: Yulon Zhu (8 out of 10)
One of USBM's leading underground incarnations, Ceremonial Castings delivers yet another American deathphonic black metal emporium, a re-mastered version of 2002's fan-favorite _Into the Black Forest of Witchery_. The new mint features grim art by Kris Verwimp and three bonus covers of Mercyful Fate, Warlock and Nunslaughter. _Into the Black Forest of Witchery_ carves down a path cleared by Lord Serpent, Old Nick and Bloodhammer, winding through woodlands filled with tall, wiry trees corrupted by winter and death. The package of cult catastrophe is completed with a giant iron cauldron serving of battle-ready black metal, entranced by mood-setting keyboards, devil-driven vocals, remarkable riffs and heart-blasting drums.

Title track "Into the Black Forest of Witchery" will put all who dismiss USBM, or even melody dense black metal, in their place. A rich, spoken word entrance overcasts the setting with vigorous black metal building up and ripping into a thundercloud of screams and spiraling guitars. The touch of grace is the subtle choir in the background and keyboards playing notes like rain droplets. If this were the only good song on the album it would be worth buying, but it in no way stands alone. "Heaven Falls Upon My Wings" could be placed into any ambient or piano album on the shelves and you wouldn't think otherwise. Ceremonial Castings know how to peel a few scales off of the devil's back to reveal small specks of light from his days as an angel. They have a firm grip on harnessing both the chaotic and melodic side of metal.

"Frostseasongoddess" seems to be a lyrical ode to Shiva, going along with the mystical sound of their music. It's the longest track at just over six minutes, paling in comparison to songs written after this album reaching nine or even thirteen minutes. "Frostseasongoddess" feeds you that stripped down vigor that Washington bands are very capable of doing, like In Memorium for example. It fades into an acoustic concord, peeling into "Valley of Snakes." Simply put, it's fast, orchestral and epic as hell. Continuing on in this arcane saga, "Beast in Black" curls your nails with consistent melodies, ringing bells fit to beckon Verdelet and wicked laughs charging the atmosphere high with the utmost debauchery. "Ghost of Alice" contains, again, plenty of symphonic zeal, insane laughter and more soul-victimizing black metal. Fragility and ethereal qualities clearly dwell here, thrown into the pot to commingle amongst electrical brutality, bloodthirsty lycanthropic and serpentine timbre. It's all topped off with an appreciation for the black arts and black metal.

Onto the cover songs, the keyboards in "The Witches Dance" are almost exactly replicated while everything else has its own spin to it. If you put music to the stirring of potions, the flashes of magic and the bristles of broomsticks falling from a starry sky, this would definitely be it. Staying true to the witchy-theme, Warlock's "Burning the Witches" and Nunslaughter's "The Crowned and the Conquering Hag" are also both successes. The originality of all bands, including Ceremonial Castings', are kept intact.

If you've ever caught a live show, then you know that when vocalist / guitarist Lord Serpent slowly makes his doom-march onstage, his eyes gleam with the urge to start slicing up the crowd at a moment's notice. This is exactly the type of squealing excitement this album brings. Ceremonial Castings and _Into the Black Forest of Witchery_ are rare finds. They are truly trendsetters instead of followers, an American act outdoing many Scandinavian groups out there. You won't find sonic-symphonic black metal like this anywhere, played in a style that allows for mayhem and aggravated assaults to take center stage and the frills to be just that, extras on the side but welcome and necessary to feed your hunger nevertheless.

Contact: http://www.ceremonialcastings.net

(article published 3/12/2008)

12/3/2008 Q Kalis 8.5 Ceremonial Castings - Salem 1692
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