Onirik - The Fire Cult Beyond Eternity (2020)
Onirik hails from Portugal, hardly known as a hotbed for black metal and is the solo project of one Gonius Rex who has released several reasonably-received albums since 2004 under the moniker. For me, this is my first exposure to the project so I went in having no particular expectations for this latest album. It features seven songs with a total running time of forty-five minutes, the longest, Assigned to the Inexorable Flames, weighing in at nine minutes. Vocally, Gonius Rex goes more for the croaking style of Abbath rather than soul-shredding shrieking and actually sounds very impressive to my ears. Lyrically the themes explored involve the usual dark, occult-based search for forbidden knowledge and experience so intrinsically linked to black metal's core aesthetic - so far, so expected. Musically, it is a bit more ambitious than that however, with a discordant, busy guitar sound that is quite progressive and replaces traditional black metal riffs with a still direct, but more jazz-influenced style. I wouldn't be surprised if Gonius Rex isn't a fan of Robert Fripp or even Frank Zappa! The overall effect is a lightning-in-a-jar exercise in controlled chaos and may either set your head a-spinning or fire up your blood, depending on your state of mind at the time of listening. That said, there is an absolute killer of a riff during Murmurs of the Aging Vessel that any real fan of black metal should lap up.
Overall, this isn't actually the style of black metal I prefer, I am much more of a traditionalist, yet there is something about this album that appeals and I can't help but keep coming back to it and I guess that is the mark of a great album, so I consider this one a winner.