Lightning Swords Of Death
21 January 2013
by Tom Dare
It’s been a rough couple of years for black metal albums. A few major bands have fluffed their lines, a few others have been away from the studio, and the relentless mediocrity of far too much of the rest has only been briefly punctuated by the genuine class of Altar Of Plagues, God Seed and a couple of others. But hopes are high for 2013, with promising releases on the horizon. Are Lightning Swords Of Death back to kick things off with a bang? Well… no. They’re a symptom of exactly why the last two years have been a bit poo.
Most music is derivative. Across human history, musicians have been shamelessly happy to rip-off others (even Mozart “borrowed” from other composers – Handel for the Kyrie in his Requiem, for instance) but surely no sphere revels in its orthodoxy so much as black metal. This is why you hear so many tired clones of every band that does something new, from Venom onwards. Staying “trve” and “kvlt” too often takes precedence over “göød”, and uninteresting, personality-drained evil gurning or pretentious, rudderless “atmospheric” turds are allowed to survive. Lightning Swords Of Death are one such example.
Stylistically, the usual Scandinavian touchpoints are all out there. Here a Mayhem riff, there a Darkthrone riff, and yonder a little Marduk for variety. They’ve also joined the list of bands far too happy to flaunt their worship of Watain (the act rapidly overtaking Deathspell Omega as the band everyone wants to be seen to rip off). Throw in a little more of the punky edge that black metal slightly veered away from when Drudkh, Wolves In The Throne Room and the mental French bands became cool, and you’ve got the record Black Anvil are a bit too talented to make. Add to that the evil shrieking and the overdone, overused portentous speech that’s more Tom G Warrior than Tom G Warrior, and you’ve got a bucketload of cliches so obvious you’d be forgiven for thinking Abigail Williams were involved.
The really unforgivable thing… well, apart from that terrible album name. If ever there was a crap black metal title, this is one. Why isn’t it Baphometic Chaos or Chaosium Baphometica or something? If you’re going to come up with ridiculous, pseudo-occult, pretty rubbish titles, at least use the language correctly. Mayhem didn’t call that album De Mysteriis Lord Satan, for fuck’s sake. Anyway, the name aside, the really unforgivable thing is that Baphometic Chaosium isn’t truly terrible. It’s unforgivable because it fucking should be terrible – at least that would be funny, or worth getting cross about and expunging the ire in a cathartic rant.
But it isn’t. It’s passable. It’s as original as a fade out during duelling guitars on a NWOBHM record, and about as emotionally provocative as a corpsepainted knitting session. But it’s competently played, well produced (neither over-produced nor under-produced), knows its influences and (depressingly) is pretty much guaranteed to get a bunch of black metal fans hungry for MOAR banging their heads down the front.
The net result is a passable effort that you can’t get worked up about in either direction. It leaves you with a vague sense of ennui you can’t seem to shift. And it provokes apathy towards a music genre you love, making you worry that you might be losing interest.
“Is it me?” you’ll ask, “Am I done with black metal? Because this shit is boring me rigid.”
“No,” I’ll answer. “It’s not you. There’s simply far too much middling crap that exists to pad out the genre, and Baphometic Chaosium is emblematic of it.”
And then you’ll hear the new Rotting Christ album, or the debut from newcomers Voices, or the new Woe record, and realise you still love black metal – it just needs to be done much better than Lightning Swords Of Death have done it here. You’ve got better things to do than listen to this generic fodder while there’s so much better music around.
Sounds like: Black Anvil, Watain, Darkthrone
Stand-out tracks can be found on less bland records