'The Three-Faced Pilgrim'
Finland's Alghazanth have seen quite a few changes in their line-up over the last eighteen years, all of which must have been pretty positive as they now present their seventh full length, 'Three faced Pilgrim', their best to date.
I had hoped this would be the case but I knew 2011s 'Vinum Intus' was going to be a pretty difficult album to match. I was blown away when I heard that album and happily, I am equally blown away by this latest offering.
My biggest concern was the vocals, always a very big point with me, as the previous two releases 'Wreath Of Thevetat' and 'Vinim Intus', the vocals were covered superbly by Goat Tormentor (Mikko Kotamäki – Swallow The Sun). This album sees the return of guitarist and co-founder member, Thasmorg, as vocalist, who hasn't covered lead vocals in over a decade, since their first album, 'Thy Aeons Envenomed Sanity' after which he stepped back to concentrate on guitars and only performed backing vocals. On this release he has done a superb job after such a long break.
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Alghazanth have always incorporated a strong melodic edge into their otherwise traditional brand of Black Metal, giving a highly reflective and powerfully emotive edge to their sound and the lyrical aspects of Alghazanth still, as they always have, revolve around Satanism and all that it entails, with lyrical content covered again by the other co-founding member, drummer Gorath Moonthorn, something that has given a positive edge on this and the two previous albums that he covered the lyric writing duties.
The album consists of six tracks, spanning an enchanting forty-six minutes, opening with the slow, reflective paced 'In Your Midnight Orchard'. Immediately as the blackened riffs combine with the melodic keyboards the atmosphere builds and as the vocals come in they hit you square in the chest and the effect is powerful and moving.
The vocals are balanced with choral style backing vocals adding a strongly emotive edge to the sound. The range to Thasmorg's vocals is impressive, ranging from a deep rasp to a shrill yet wonderfully tortuous scream.
Gentle but distorted riffs rise and fall as 'To The Pearl On High' opens, the pace quickening with the arrival of the vocals and although a quicker tempo, the highly thought provoking feel is still constant. I love the pace of 'Promethean Permutation' a classic Black Metal plod, overlaid with melodic orchestration to soften and add atmosphere. It's difficult choosing a favourite on an album of this quality but this is one of the tracks I like slightly more.
Intense from the offset, 'AdraMelekTaus' also featured on an EP as the title track in October and I am glad it is also included here as it features the very best vocals of the album. The pace is also up tempo with a very powerful feel to the construction of the track.
A gentle guitar led opener on 'As It Is Fated' is quickly superseded as the tempo rises just before the one minute mark while final track, 'With Sickle And Scythe', is another winner with me. The combination of a classic plodding Black Metal pace and intense riffs overlaid with harsh vocals and melodic keyboards makes a stunning album ender.
This album also turns a full circle with Jari 'Tupi' Tuomainen returning as the engineer for 'The Three-Faced Pilgrim' as he worked as an intern at Tico Tico studio in 1998 when Alghazanth recorded their first full length, 'Thy Aeons Envenomed Sanity'.
'The Three-faced Pilgrim' is a beautiful melodic Black Metal album, superb musicianship and beautifully constructed compositions that have been executed to perfection.