I’m reviewing this over a month after it came out because I’ve been specifically avoiding this album for a while now. For background, I’m a BAN fanboy. I have Ultima Thulée and Memoria Vetusta I: Fathers of the Icy Age on CD, with Fathers being a first edition with the OG cover art. I’ve heard all of their album sans one of their splits and some of their EPs (15 in all) and they are my most listened to black metal band overall. I would even say it’s possible that they are my second favorite black metal band outside of Altar of Plagues, and part of why they are number 2 is why I was avoiding this album.
We all know the story by now. BAN has released nearly the same album over and over again for like a decade now, with 2 Memoria Vetusta breaks in between, one of which was a classic, and the other being a decent if disappointing album. After Codex Obscura Nomina turned to be their worst album yet, I desperately didn’t one of my favorite bands to let me down again. Electric Wizard is already doing that, I don’t need BAN to shit the bed too. So I waited and waited and finally I gave this a go, cautious, but optimistic. Others had been putting this on their album of the year lists, so I figured how bad can it be right?
Well it’s not all good news, but overall this album gives me a little bit of hope. The one thing I’m the most excited about is that it sounds distinctly different from their other records. While previously they had been trying to be an industrial DSO knockoff, Deus takes a much more atmospheric approach to their sound. Yes, this still has a lot of the same ideas as their other work, namely the dissonant chords and industrial sterile chuggs, however it exchanges crunchy atonal chord spams for merging with the atmo death scene a bit more. Unfortunately, this sounds more like a trend hop than truly a new direction, however I for one welcome any kind of change, even if it’s done in a not so unique fashion.
The songs now have some actually variety in style, with the cleaner orthodox riffs getting more emphasis on some tracks, and the atmospheric atonal messes being the focus of the rest of the album. There’s also dark ambient interludes, but they sound more like filler than anything else. It’s like BAN didn’t have enough material for a full length and decided to fuck around with some synth a to fill space. Which is embarrassing, because this is a 33 minute album. I can’t say the length is really that much of a negative however, I feel like if this was 50 minutes plus I would’ve grown very bored. As is the album ends right as im on the cusp of feeling like I’ve had enough, which isn’t exactly me wanting more, but it’s better than wanting the album to end before it’s over.
So, verdict. Is this an improvement? Yeah absolutely. I don’t feel totally bored and they finally switched up their formula at least to some degree. Is it a good album? Ehhhh. I mean it’s not bad, pretty much squarely in the middle/upper middle of my black metal ratings for 2017. Which is not bad, but not where I want this band to be personally. Does deserve to be on any AOTY li- pffftt ahahaha ok I won’t even go there. People putting this on their AOTY lists have to have only listened to like 5-10 Black Metal albums this year, there’s no other explanation.
Either that or they just haven’t heard too much of BAN’s classic material. I think the biggest reason why I’m so disappointed over and over again is because they perfected this sound on their first attempt , and nothing they have made has been as good since. We’ve had over a decade of inferior products to the original, at some point even the most diehard fan’s patience runs thin. They’re apparently doing another Vetusta album soon, so I can get excited for that I guess. I wish I could get excited for every release instead of hoping I’m not too disappointed, but thems the breaks.
In short, BAN have absolutely gone a step in the right direction. However this is just one step in many more needed before they reclaim their throne as one of the kings of black metal.