Review Summary: With the help of two members of Decapitated, Lux Occulta release what is quite possibly their finest album ever.
The year was 1999. Decapitated had just put out two demos within the previous two years, Cemeterial Gardens in '97 and The Eye of Horus in '98. They, essentially, contained what would become, arguably, Decapitated's finest work in '00, Winds of Creation. So what does the year '99 and Decapitated have to do with Lux Occulta" Well, Decapitated may not have put anything out in '99, but Wacław "Vogg" Kiełtyka and Marcin "Martin" Rygiel did. They joined up with Lux Occulta to release My Guardian Anger. Which is quite possibly Lux's finest outing. The influence is apparent, as Lux took a moderately high jump in intensity with their entry.
Just to give you a quick summery of their career, since they seem to be often overlooked. Lux Occulta are an avant-garde black/deathmetal group, from Poland. They were formed in late '94 and have put out three records before this one (Forever Alone, Immortal '96, Dionysos '97, and Major Arcana '98, which was actually a new EP with their original demo, Forgotten Arts '95.). All, of which, were pretty good in their own right. After Major Arcana was released, original guitarist G'Ames and Jackie, the original bass player, were asked to leave. Enter Martin and Vogg.
Vocals - Fool (Jarosław "Jaro.Slav" Szubrycht)
Keyboards - Hermit (Jerzy "U'reck" Głód)
Lead Guitar - Devil (Wacław "Vogg" Kiełtyka)
Rhythm Guitar - Magician ("Peter")
Bass - Sun (Marcin "Martin" Rygiel)
Drums - Death ("Kriss")
Female Vocals - Dorota Szostak
Viola - Magdalena Drozdowska
Viola - Maria Kowalkowska
Now, I’m am by no means saying that the only reason you should check this out is because of the Decapitated tie, and for those of you who are now expecting to hear how much this record sounds like Decapitated, don't hold your breath. Martin and Vogg may have changed Lux's sound a bit, but this is far from anything Decapitated have ever done. If you didn't know they were in it, then you'd probably never guess that they were. However, fans of the band should get some pleasure in hearing the two members in a different context.
My Guardian Anger isn't anything ground-breaking, but it does have a uniqueness to it that cannot be ignored. For the most part, it is a guitar driven album with lots and lots of symphonics. It usually goes back and forth as to which one is leading the way. Sometimes the guitars are being complimented by the keyboards and at others the opposite is apparent. The guitars are often crushing yet still retain a great melody, and yes, there are even solos. None of them are real long, but they're decent. The keys are often very grandiose and epic, and at times, mostly when things get intense, they can sound scary. The interplay between the two elements is what makes this a great record, as the resulting melodies will often lodge themselves in your brain only to be released via hum.
This isn't to say that the other elements aren't worthy of mention, because that is hardly the case. Kriss' drum work is exceptional. He plays what needs to be played, when it needs to be. And because the songs change up so much, he is able to display that skill often. He exhibits everything from chill slow beats to straight-up blasts.
Martin is also very apparent on this record. His bass is not only heard but felt, tremendously. The lower registers of bass are very high in the mix. Almost too high in fact. If you are listening to this on a good sound system then you'll hear what I mean. That's not to say it sounds bad, but I feel they could have made the bass a little less overwhelming at times. At least he's present. Bass is often overlooked in metal, as many of you already know.
As far as vocals go, Jaro does a wonderful job. He has a great blackmetal rasp, that he uses most of the time, and a decent low death-growl that is used for emphasis on certain parts. I really like how he is fairly reserved about the amount of singing he actually does, often letting the music speak for itself. The lyrics are, for the most part, religiously themed, but not necessarily in a positive way. I have read that there is a concept to the lyrics, but haven't delved deeply enough into them to tell if that's true or not. Also, the female vocals, by Dorota, are good at contrasting the harsh vocals. She isn't present in all of the songs and her parts aren't long, but they're nice none the less.
I should also state that the production here is very, very good. Every element is audible even during the more aggressive parts. My only qualm is with the, aforementioned, bass. It can be, somewhat, overwhelming at times, but overall My Guardian Anger gets an "A-" for its crisp and clear production.
Lux Occulta's My Guardian Anger is good example of what can happen when a band changes its line-up. Luckily for them, it was for the better as it can sometimes have a devastating effect on a band. The addition of Martin and Vogg gave Lux's sound a definite boost. I encourage anyone that likes symphonic black/deathmetal to give this a listen. Its a little different take on the style, but that's a good thing in my book.