Review Summary: With so much going on throughout the album, Ceremonial Castings has something both good and bad to offer to everybody.
Almost every album you hear will have redeeming qualities as well as flaws to you. You can pick out what is going well for the CD as well as what doesn’t quite click. In Ceremonial Castings’ 2005 release Immortal Black Art
, this is a task that will yield different results for many listeners. Amongst the excellent musicianship lies a wide array of vocals that can be hit or miss depending on one’s musical taste, along with keyboards and synthesizers aplenty throughout virtually every track. These factors can come across as a welcome addition to some, and a major detraction to the album’s overall quality to others.
So many things on Immortal Black Art
are going on that one would imagine it would be difficult to keep track of what’s going on at times. Allow me to assure you, it can be. At times you may find yourself listening to an orchestral background melody whilst furiously paced tremolo riffs accompanied by an onslaught of blast beats and rasping shrieks hammer themselves against your eardrums all at once. It can be overwhelming, but not in a way that detracts from the album. Unlike other similar cases where many instrumental passages can overpower each other, Ceremonial Castings does a fine job at keeping each piece in place so that every instrument splits the spotlight evenly. The chaos of the instrumental overdrive is not the flaw in the musicianship but rather the consistent inclusion of keyboards, synthesized backbeats, or whatever else the band could think of. Operatic voices and fleeting keyboards only begin to describe the slew of strange sounds you will come across in Immortal Black Art
, not always to a positive extent. Although they bring a symphonic sound to the album, they never feel necessary when they are present, nor are they missed when absent.
Not without certain specific praise however, the instrumental half of the album does have its highlights. The guitar in particular constructs some very interesting melodies ranging from standard black metal tremolo riffs but also riffs that have a heavy metal or thrash metal sound to them. Never faltering throughout the entire course of the album, the guitar riffs maintain a reliable quality that hardly ever strays from being fully captivating. The same cannot be said about other instruments however. Bass production seems to have been fairly low on the band’s “to do” list during the creation of the album. Drum beats sound flat without anything short of poor production quality, and as for the bassist, it’s debatable if there even is one. The aforementioned keyboards and synthesizers bring a largely unneeded “symphonic” sound to the album that, while appealing at some times, is nothing but a nuisance at others. Too often does a raw and savage portion of a song receive an unwelcome keyboard melody which ranges from being nothing but a small pest to an utter frustration. From a compositional standpoint, the band did a great job. But when delivered along with the rest of the passage they just aren’t enough to save the fact that it just doesn’t fit.
Of all the characteristics this album possesses, the vocals will be the biggest source of love or hate. Shrieks typical of the black metal genre are found plentifully, but also deep death growls and even completely clean, almost spoken vocals. When emitting his shrill scream, vocalist Jake “The Serpent” Superchi has a sound that is not particularly good or bad, simply average. The growls on the other hand, can pose to be a major turn off to some, appearing much more frequently than one would imagine on a black metal release. Not a particularly high quality growl by any means, but not so awful that you will hang your head in shame. The spoken vocals can prove to be the “neutral” vocal delivery of the album, being neither bad or good, nor even necessarily irritating. On rare occasions such as on the title track, the shrieking highs will be overlayed upon monotonously delivered spoken passages. Neat sounding for a moment, they eventually start to drone on and on and begin to become bothersome.
The final point of recognition on the album is the cover of Transilvanian Hunger. A very well-known Darkthrone song from the album of the same name, Ceremonial Castings amps up the speed to the point of shortening the song by almost a minute and a half. Although the tempo is cranked upwards, the cover remains fairly good and is not a weak point or strong point on the album, simply a nifty cover of a quality black metal tune.
Even though Immortal Black Art
is certainly full of shortcomings, what keeps it on a good track is that these shortcomings are seldom enough to do any significant damage to the album’s final outcome. These shortcomings will be different for everybody and of varying degrees, but no matter what angle you look place it at, you are left with a solid release in the black metal genre.