Evoking a sound that listeners can recognize as “evil” is black metal’s crowning achievement. The genre’s early (and continued) ties to Satanic themes help, of course, but it is the sound (the scales, the notes, the use of dissonance, et cetera) of black metal that causes the mind to make the imaginative leap from simple music to full-blown apocalyptic soundtrack.
Naked Swords Into the Wombs of the Enemy by De Magia Veterum, one of the many brainchildren of prolific Dutch musician Mories, is as much a drone album as an impressive avantgarde black metal album, yet it maintains a singular vision in harnessing the latter’s raw, primal force and arresting it to a suffocating gothic atmosphere. With Naked, I daresay there hasn’t been quite a journey to hell like this one since Virgil accompanied Dante in Alighieri’s Inferno.
Imagine a horde of imps stumbling upon an orchestra, and you’ll have an idea of the ensuing chaos that begins with “Trumpeteering the Sulphur Lakes,” which sets the malevolent tone and blistering speed for the rest of the album. Production-wise, the forefront of the mix swells with layers of hellish organs that are, at times, indistinguishable from the guitars, which whirl like dervishes in the background. We’ve all heard walls of sound in our metal before, but tracks like “Terebinths of Mamre” blast with the heat of a pressurized cauldron, its fell steam generated by the devil’s own furnace. Frequent, sometimes even abrupt key changes on tracks like “Quench My Thirst With Night” never let you settle into any given riff, even against a constant dirge of blast beats. The vocals are every bit as deranged as the music, shifting from operatic singing to hoarse screams to even what I’d describe as spoken word. Every instrument here works together to form an unstoppable wall of blackened noise that can steal your breath away.
I feel like to try and find more common musical aspects like “dynamics” and “groove” would undermine what Naked Swords Into the Wombs of the Enemy does best, which is to create the most unnerving atmosphere the imagination can muster. Still, it has an air of perverse majesty about it, much in the way that Henry the VIII could still be referred to as “majesty” as he lopped off the heads of his wives. And like that king of old, De Magia Veterum wields a great and terrible power that will positively rule you.