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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Review of Raven Eyes Like Mirros for Encyclopaedia Metallum about the album "Abi In Malam Pestem" = 80%

"After having the ecstatic experience of my first Antiquus Scriptum album… the fantastic “Conclamatum Est”, it became high priority to track down copies of the band’s other albums. Most if not all of the many cdr and tape pressings have been sold out for some time, luckily new versions of the first two discs were being releases at the time by the small but dedicated metal brothers at Runenstein Records. I’m still amazed there are no other reviews of Sacredos Magus’ work here, and I feel I really must trumpet the word out for this band. For there is something really amazing here just under the surface if people would not just dismiss it as too crude or unpredictable.

Starting with this the first album, I am actually shocked at how dramatically different it is from “Conclamatum Est”, particularly in the quality of the production. There was always something bravely youthful and juvenile about the samples I had heard of early Antiquus Scriptum, but on this album that spirit is all out in the open with a blinding rain of machine gun fire. It’s the sonic equivalent of being strafed by programmed drums! Magus does nothing to hide the programmed material and even seems to enhance it to the point of maniacal absurdity until each song is utterly riddled with bullet holes. The first time I heard a sample of the song “Of Dying Seasons..” I immediately collapsed with laughter at this onslaught… but then as I listened and the riffs of the guitar emerged through, I felt a wicked smile split my face and I soon was banging my head in rhythm to it! Even back in this time, the real charm and brilliant talent of Magus comes through his trademark riffs.

I wish I was more versed in genres to fully classify it, but these riffs… syncing dexterously with the 2/2 drum work , have an infectious character filled with a rocking metal energy. It’s something like thrash with a punkish spirit. A feeling further enhanced by Magus’s shouted screech, something far more akin to classic Destruction than any arbitrary black metal rasp (another unique character that sets Antiquus Scriptum apart). They are uncontrollably fun, absolutely killer.. catchy as hell, and just a great metal experience. And they are all over this album, though underneath that absolute mass of noise that is the drums! 

In a way, that over-the-top programming actually adds to this infectious youthful sound. Yet sometimes it does get in the way of the music. There is no real atmosphere to this album like there is on “Conclamatum Est”. Though Magus does attempt to remedy that with a few epic synth bursts in the songs and these acoustic interludes. When these later pieces come up in the listen, they are so shockingly different from the brutality of the other tracks that they are rather alien, sometimes interrupting the flow of the disc… especially at the end with two quiet interludes with one very short metal track between them. I would not say though that I would cut them out necessarily. Perhaps if they were not there, Magus could have given us a huge unrelenting slab of programmed hell (which BTW the cover art perfectly fits this music!). That would have worked well. But then, I must say that these interludes are of a more above average quality than most basic pagan or folk BM bands could pull off. It’s amazing, but it always seems to me that these Mediterranean/Spanish/Lusitanian acts are just brilliant and poetic with their acoustic guitars! And as the album progresses, these interludes become more and more beautiful until you are swept away by the final track. In this Magus has paired what sounds like plainchant (certainly Latin and uniquely rhythmic) alongside medieval skin drums, guitar, new age piano, and nature sounds for something truly amazing. I only wish he had expanded further on this piece. Perhaps it would have been best to release all the metal as one album and all the interludes as a folk EP. I would have bought it.

In the end though, interludes aside, this album is a tough one to swallow, but rewarding. It’s frankly absolutely brutal in sound, but patience will reveal the unique addictive riffs and writing that make Antiquus Scriptum so special in my mind, and they have even more of a murderous jamming aggression than the more subtle brilliance of “Conclamatum Est”. It would be 6 years after this release before Antiquus Scriptum would resurrect again and begin to work into this youthful mass into its modern mature incarnation.

I've mentioned before that the cover of this album is perfectly appropriate for this music. I also would like to add an additional about the artwork. Magus relies heavily here on Medieval engravings and paintings which is great. Yet, they are simply presented though with no real borders, formatting or anything else and appear a little weak, especially with illegible text over the top. In the end though I am not too critical about this point. After all this certainly was released with little financial backing so there was only so much that could be added. 

Lyrically, Magus presents again his love of Medieval history and Church documents on the unjust persecution of pagans through Europe, the one exception being “Of Dying Seasons…” in which he spews deep vitriol at modern man for his polluting technology and wanton rape of mother nature. When I listen to bands like this I rely on their lyrics and image to take me away from this corrupt modern world and it’s a little jarring when contemporary themes fill into the music. However, I will say that I am wholly sympathetic with Magus’s despise for the ruination of our earth and it is good to see metal artist who care about this issue!

I have read some criticism of Antiquus Scriptum before. People seem to be put off by the over-the-top nature of this artist and his unusual setup. The bands old Myspace was plastered with pretty fantasy art that to most did not really fit at all the black metal appeal. The song titles are lengthy and complex, and the man behind the project is very eclectic indeed. If someone just comes to Antiquus Scriptum expecting generic black metal tropes or typical epic pagan metal much like what one would hear from the Einheit Productions roster, then they may dismiss this music rather quickly. However, they are gravely mistaken, not to mention totally base and shallow. This band is quite hard to classify, and cannot be compared to any working artist today. Everything Magus does on his albums are wholly him to the fullest extent and can’t be mistaken for anything else. He’s brought together all these diverse ideas from riffs, to vocals, to artwork and lyrics in order to make something special that has never been heard before. I did the same as everyone else when I first stumbled onto the Antiquus Scriptum Myspace years ago… looking for something more like Summoning or Nazgul. I thought the music was too raw and did not match up with the visuals. A real mistake. In the end about a year later I would stumble into his music once more by chance and this time I saw through my error discovered something truly wonderful. Put on the track “Guradioes do Graal”, let the machine gun drums spray you, then grab onto those rhythms! See if you can feel that larger-than-life pure metal energy and maybe you will finally see what is so special about this project… at least one of many special things!" (Raven Eyes Like Mirrors / Encyclopaedia Metallum = 80%)

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