Unholy Ritual – Rex Mundi
Symphonic black metal is a thorny sub genre. One can choose to approach it in a variety of ways, but to furnish a full length that manages to grab you by your balls for its standard length of thirty to sixty minutes is a formidable task that not every songwriter can manage to pull off. Emperor, Limbonic Art and Anorexia Nervosa are some names that might come to mind, but ‘legends’ or ‘çlassics’ in this genre are relatively hard to find.
So does Rex Mundi fit the bill? I was initially tempted to dismiss this effort lightly, but multiple listens convinced me that though this was no rare gem, it wasn’t just another generic sheep to add to the herd of derelict bands repeating the same formula over and over either.
Unholy Ritual manage to craft an impressive sounding array of songs, laden with catchy hooks, unrelenting blast beats and appropriate use of synth driven symphonic elements. They definitely have a progressive edge to them, reminiscient of the first two Ihsahn albums to an extent. The occasional clean vocal harmonies and proggy rhythmic guitar interludes save the songs from falling prey to monotony, and the band very wisely uses these elements with care lest the aggression that lies at the core of their music is overshadowed by superficial theatrics. The sound is a bit polished, which might disappoint some, but I found it entirely appropriate for the effect they seem to be aiming at, without losing the visceral aspect. Songs like ‘Childish Fears’ and thoughtful interludes like ‘In Flagrante Delicto’ show that the band has really managed to get the intricacies of the genre down.
Overall, it’s an extremely honest and mature effort by these Greek musicians, and though it does not hold surprises, pleasant or unpleasant, it serves as a fitting example of a good commercial release that deserves to be heard. Overall rating, 7.5/10.