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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review of Raven Eyes Like Mirrors (US) about the album "Immortalis Factus" for the Encyclopaedia Metallum = 90%

"After discovering this mostly one man project of Sacredos Magus with their album “Conclamatum Est”, it has been imperative that I get each full-length of this delightfully strange and original black/thrash/neofolk metal band. And now after repeated listenings I feel ready to review the second work “Immortalis Factus”. What I have found is an evolutionary album, one not perfect, but inhabited by a few absolutely perfect songs. One that comes after 6 years of silence and represents the old transitioning into the new. Bear with me this is a complex review.

A good way to describe Antiquus Scriptum’s mood is ‘battle metal’. It is not brooding or ‘evil’ in tone. It is indignant, classic, rollicking, well-crafted, and full of an almost punk-ish/thrashy youthful charm. And then on top of that is thrown some epic synths and some moody medieval folk passages. It’s like the victory march of a medieval infantry unit joyous with battlelust. Its very strange and perhaps challenging to process at first. But if you can get past the ‘one man band’ aspect and listen with an open mind, you will find something totally original and fun. In many ways, Antiquus Scriptum reminds me a hell of a lot of the Chilean band Bewitched (sans all the scummy white power bullshit!)

The band’s previous 2002 album was a total inferno of brutality that is either a love or hate piece with its over the top programming and raging thrash vocal barks. On “Immortalis Factus”, if feels as if Magus had a lot of songs left over from then. Most of the shorter metal tracks consist of this blazing blast-riddled hell, sometimes punctuated with sampled intros of sobbing Christians meeting their fate. One clear exception to this is “O Adamastor”, the song that originally sold me on getting this band’s album. With vocal lines taken straight from classical Portuguese poetry, this track cuts out the blazing blasts and instead delivers killer as fuck riffage and mid-paced echoing drums to create a song so catchy and awesome you can’t avoid banning you head! I would be surprised if no one could just hear a simple, solid metal song there.

This album is chaotic. It has parts that will blast you away to hell while at other times it is a joyous heroic experience. Sometimes the songs are filled with swagger and piss, and then there are a few melancholic ambient/folk passages. And Magus feels it necessary to dash a little epicness onto each piece. I have heard people complain about this unpredictability in the band’s music before. And I do agree that Antiquus Scriptum, especially this album, is very chaotic with lots of mood changes. But listening closely, this music all manages to stay together conceptually. All these variations seem to fit into the visual, lyrical world of history, warfare, and medieval mythology that the band strives for. Although I do feel that the music suffers a little without the full band component, its originality is clearly a work that only one person would be able to create free of the compromise that a band usually entails. And with that, we are able to hear an album that cannot be compared to any other. That it gets credit for.

The main driving force behind Antiquus Scriptum has been, I feel, its classic thrash/punk-ish riffs and how they are driven by the drumwork. It has given this band a power that you could find in very few black metal projects. A power that is fun and rocking and full of youthful indignation. Magus rejection of black metal rasps or death growls in favor of old school thrash vocals is logical if not different. The early material contained this delivery in a more primitive and brutal form. Later releases its well written and crafted. 

On “Immortalis Factus” we have both in lesser degrees. The brutal fast work is sometimes slowed down a little to let in more constructed elements. In it you can see the evolution of this band after so many years of absence. Although its good to hear this change for the better, the high points of the riffs are in the end not quite as masterful as on “Conclamatum Est”. Beyond this though, there is a new layer of epic and folk music. This part of the band has doubled in quality since the first album, the synths are a little more varied and present in the metal songs, and the acoustic interludes have a top notch stunning beauty, sometimes better than nearly all the other folk/black bands out there in terms of mood and writing. It would be interesting if Magus did one album of all folk instruments and keyboards. He has a great deal of talent here. They help enhance and color up this midpoint in the band’s musical evolution. Though the sound is not yet to its greatest perfection, there is still good material here, something that would require lots of listens to sink in more directly.

The artwork of the cd works very well for the concept the band is going for with their music. Pictures of the high mountains in Portugal. Although they feel kind of strange paired with the more brutal or swaggering songs, they are still enjoyable to look at and reflect the lyrical content and also the more folk/ambient segments. Though I kind of with the text was more legible! 

So in the end you have a band in the process of cleaning out their older composition style and moving it forward. And though its very chaotic, there is a lot of meat still here I believe for those who desire something new and original.

But this is not the end yet.

I have to make a very special mention about this album. There is one song here that is unlike any of the others, something that sticks out from all the rest as if it came from another world. And the effect it had on me was enough for me to write a review just for it. It is really hard to write about my feelings about this piece, but suffice to say I consider it the best single song in the bands entire discography. 

I have experienced a lot of Viking metal in my day, especially with this now powerful influx of pagan folk metal. It’s a genre that is kind of hard to classify, but I have often seen people describe the riffs and ideas of high quality Viking metal as having a very specific aura and sound about it.. one that instantly paints a specific Viking picture in your head. That its instantaneous. You just know right away “that’s a Viking riff”. I myself have however not fully grasped this specific feeling from the basic metal aspects of most Viking bands. The one exception being Hades (Nor) and their demo. That screams the aura to me. Some Einherjer also has that feeling too. But most folk metal I know I get its pagan European themes from the epic atmosphere, folk instruments, and chant-vocals. And I have had much enjoyment with that. “A Viking Belief” though…damn…I know it seems really far to say this, but this piece seems to top them all. Though it lacks the fullest of production. It has the one most crucial element than many bands lack, and that is songwriting.

I hear this and the best comparison I can think of is “Apzu” the one grand track that begins Absu’s “the Sun of Tiphareth”. Like that epic, this songs brilliance relies entirely in the way that the instruments are weaved together and then evolve in unison. Great riffs are not the only thing… the drums are not just a ‘solid backup’. Everything, lyrics, synths, riffs, snare hits… all are arranged into brilliant perfection. Though the programmed drums are not as complex at the work of Proscriptor, “A Viking Belief” progresses with far more satisfying bliss than “Apzu”. This is very clear as soon as the piece starts.

After the first lead in, we are introduced to the main idea at a sluggish mid-pace that has a nice slow jamming rock to it. And then as you start to get into it, Magus develops the piece onward. With each revolution he subtlety increases the intensity. By the time the blasts hit, this thematic evolution suddenly progresses at a much faster rate coupling with the increased intensity and suddenly the rock becomes a killer as fuck headbang. And still not satisfied the theme evolves once more until that headbang is whipped into a bloodthirsty frenzy! And even a peaceful person like me just want to tear shit up! And amidst all this din, the guitar just spills out riffs freely all wrapped around the original idea and it is an orgasmic ecstasy! At this point I can see the heroes in Valhalla blissfully in battle together. Perfection! And then when your neck is about to snap and your whole body is wasted, Magus finally completes the theme and drops into another slow rock, deep and earthen with low menacing vocals and chugging acoustics, and somber flutes. 

He keeps this up for awhile until a new idea interrupts and the piece begins to evolve and build with intensity once again, but this time before it can reach the height of the previous, the same old theme drops back in at she same point where it previously introduced the main chorus. And as the singers cry out the name of the Nordic gods with the music blasting away, it all finally closes on this epic plateau. 

Truly this piece is the greatest single composition the band has ever created. Absolutely flawless composition, lots of epic synths and acoustics, but insanely killer moshing passages…it has everything! And it sticks out from all the other works on “Immortalis Factus”. I feel that perhaps this song was the end of the bands older material of blinding programmed brutality (of which most of the other songs on the album consist of) and the genesis of the current sound by which subsequent Antiquus Scriptum works.

To finally end this review, I feel that despite it not being absolutely perfect, the total chaos and originality of this album, crowned with one piece that would stand above all else the band has created thus far, surely makes this worth listening. And I advise, try his other albums to get some perspective here as well. And you might want to try listening more than once before you decide how you feel about the surreal epic/thrash/folk black that is “Immortalis Factus”. 
(Raven Eyes Like Mirrors / Encyclopaedia Metallum = 90%)

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