It very much seemed that by the end of 2016 there were very few places across the globe that hadn’t been affected by a plague of black metal. Bands were springing up in some very unlikely places and seemingly on a weekly basis. No longer just the product of various Scandinavian territories and a few other places, for such a niche genre, black metal seemed to be big business (relatively speaking, of course). While many bands seemed happy to screech and hiss their way down a familiar path, there genre still had other avenues to explore.
Fewer black metallers come any more bombastic than SevenSins, a band from Kasakhstan. On ‘Due Diaboli et Apocalypse’ – their second full-length – they take the guts of black metal, beef them up with more pneumatics than you could pummel a face with, and then throw in grindcore elements and operatic vocals for good measure. This might be brilliant for what it is, but man, to call it uncompromising would be an understatement.
A lengthy intro combining drones, squawking crows, some foreign language dialogue and symphonic keys that sound as if they’ve been inspired by a Hans Zimmer soundtrack each set a very dark and ambitious tone at the outset – very much bigging up the symphonic elements of the band’s sound. It fills a couple of minutes confidently and could easily stretch further, but SevenSins have other ideas, and so, ‘Kabbalah’ comes forth with a hefty riff and a few Arabic tones. There’s a weighty pneumatic rhythm pushing everything forward apace, coupled with a typically scratchy vocal, but beneath everything, banks of keyboards approximating an orchestral leaning go a long way to making something that’s insanely heavy also sound oddly melodic. The inclusion of two very old style, shredding lead breaks – influenced from classic eighties thrash – are also very much worth some ear time. With more spoken, demonic voices and a combination of twin lead guitars and symphonic backdrops, ‘Alchemist’ is at first closer to Within Temptation’s much heavier cousin, but once the vocal puts in an appearance, the black metal takes over. Frontman Victor tackles the number with a force that’s impressive, though in terms of melody, it can be hard going. Luckily, the music remains tight and impressive. Keeping the harsh vocals up front, ‘Peregrinus’ fuses symphonic black metal traits with some of the macho bombast of battle metal, serving up what could be the purest example of the band’s sound. The production values on this disc are so good, that although SevenSins sound like a truck at all times, there’s still a huge clarity between the layers and instruments. Factor in another old school lead guitar and it quickly becomes an album highlight.
None of that, however, will prepare you for ‘Mors Atra’, a thunderous, pneumatic workout that rips the guts from a huge guitar sound and an even bigger drum, while simultaneously attacking the listener with a dual vocal. The male lead settles for a typical black metal rasp – only ever really reaching out to the converted – while a female voice pushes everything farther with some smart operatics. The fusion of two bombastic voices and a juddering, thrashing riff makes this number a superb example of how to be inventive with extreme metal without going down too far along an avant garde path. It shows the individual players to be at ease no matter how intense things get. Overall, it certainly isn’t as broad as a couple of the previous numbers, but an increased focus on symphonic elements against a slight industrial metal riff midway lends yet another new aspect…and one that’s most welcome.
Reaching the midpoint of the album – assuming you don’t need a rest – SevenSins are more than happy to pummel your ears further. ‘Due Diaboli’ throws itself headfirst into a giant doom riff underscored by lightning fast drum fills, before filling the bulk of the remainder with clangerous black metal fare. This is perhaps closer to a standard hybrid of death and black metal styles, with less interest in the symphonic angle, although huge pompy keyboards continue to waver in and out of the relentless riffery, as a constant reminder of how important these guys view the orchestral sounds. Despite being one of the album’s most confrontational tracks, nearing the climax, guitarist Vladimir steps forward with a mornful and sweeping lead guitar. For the briefest of moments, his playing is very, very emotive – hauntingly beautiful even. It won’t be enough for those who’ve been put off thus far to re-evaluate anything, but it’s a really nice touch.
Revisiting a lot of the musical themes that dominated the album’s first half, ‘Seraphim’ brings a crushing riff and almost pirate-anical melody before sinking into some typical black metal musical themes and ‘Praesuptio Reatum’ fuses the usual sympho-black sounds with a chunky hardcore breakdown. As before, the playing is strong; the production weighty. In all, neither track is quite as memorable, but it would be grossly unfair to categorise these efforts as filler, especially since both the construction and production remains impressive. Returning to Eastern vibes, the intro to ‘Avicenna’ makes a huge feature from cleanly plucked acoustic work and Arabic percussion, before dropping into a forceful thrashing riff. The intense speed and weight of that ensuing riff shows SevenSins in a very heavy frame of mind, but the interplay between lightning fast drums and vocals is impressive, as is the symphonic melody lurking beneath. Given time to adjust, by the time the instrumental breaks put in an appearance, the music combines intensity and melody in a way that makes it sound like an Arabic take on a classic Soulfly work. If you only have time to cherry-pick a few tracks from this album – or are too wussy to make it from end to end – make sure you give this track a spin.
The final pairing of tracks gets off to a great start with ‘Infinitas Non’ showing off some fantastic melodic guitar lines before plunging face first into another riff that sounds like a more hardcore version of a Max Cavalera classic. In fact, the whole track is a great showcase for SevenSins uncompromising heavy as hell melodies, forging ahead and leaving some great metal in it’s wake. The earlier melodies provide the bulk of a couple of superb solos, too, so in extreme metal terms, this ticks so many boxes, while ‘Teofelspakt’ closes the disc with a return to sledgehammer symphonic blackness. If you’ve made it this far, there are no real surprises – just one last opportunity to gawp (and perhaps baulk) at the all round intensity of the performance and production values. If it ain’t broke, as they say…
Okay, so…this is huge. It’s bombastic beyond belief, edgy as hell and sometimes genuinely frightening. With all those things taken into consideration, SevenSins might already have a great album on their hands (genre specific, of course), but it’s also great to hear a DIY band from a small country who’ve actually given their music the kind of time and budget it deserves. It’s extreme nature means ‘Due Diaboli et Apocalypse’ won’t please everyone, but if you’ve got a passing fancy in black or death-infused symphonic metal, it would be a crime not to give this a listen.