January 21, 2019 Hecate Enthroned – Embrace of the Godless Aeon (Album Review)
Maintaining a career spanning more than twenty years in the underground, England’s powerful Hecate Enthroned return in the winter of 2019 with Embrace of the Godless Aeon, their sixth studio album and first in five years. Newly signed to US based record label M-Theory Audio, founding Guitarist Nigel Dennan once more collaborated with operatic songstress Sarah Jezebel Deva (Cradle of Filth, Therion, The Kovenant) to craft another opus of sprawling, orchestral Black Metal for fans of all strains of Heavy Metal music to enjoy.
From the moment they erupted onto a still forming UK Black Metal scene in 1997, Hecate Enthroned drew strong comparison to their highly successful countrymen Cradle of Filth. From shrieking vocals to the up-front presence of keyboards and blast beats, the parallels between the two bands were impossible to ignore. Whereas their more established colleagues experimented with Gothic and commercial overtones, Hecate Enthroned’s material remained on the raw, more high-velocity end of the spectrum.
For Embrace of the Godless Aeon, Dennan is joined on lead harsh vocals by Joe Stamps, who joined Hecate Enthroned in 2015. His style on this new album comports well with the overall vocal range that Guitarist Andy Milnes and Bassist Dylan Hughes feel comfortable with.
On songs such as “Whispers of the Mountain Ossuary,” a slower pace offsets Stamp’s tortured shrieks and forceful bellows. The singing styles are once more very reminiscent of Dani Filth. Keyboards, prominent in the mix, are ever-present. The interplay between these elements harks back to the glories of late ’90s Symphonic Black Metal. While Hecate Enthroned may not be innovating beyond their tried and true style, fans who long for those days and those sounds will find a sonic sanctuary here.
The piano intro of “Goddess of Dark Misfits” evokes the whole candelabras and moonlit Horror atmospherics quite well. We hear a very neoclassical vocal performance by the aforementioned Sarah Jezebel Deva, lilting over top the deeper darkness of Stamp.
Speedier numbers such as “Revelations In Autumn Flame,” released as a single, showcases a freshly infused Hecate Enthroned, perhaps feeling a higher degree of inspiration from spreading out the release of new material. Pete White, on keys since 2004, dominates masterfully on this song, his orchestral flourishes driving the meat of the tune forward.
That is where some folks might have a complaint. These songs are primarily dominated by White’s keys, the double-bass heavy drum work of Gareth Harvey, and Stamp’s voice. The guitars, recorded a bit low in the mix, perhaps do not make themselves as readily heard as some might prefer. That being said, the beauty of Hecate Enthroned lies specifically in the eldritch atmospheres they create with those keyboards.
On “Temples That Breathe,” the blast which follows the keyboard intro leaves no room for breath. Stamp screams over the blast beat and dancing keys relentlessly. This is a robust and rapid ode and certainly an album highlight.
Beauty and brutality are married also on album closer “Erebus and Terror,” where drifting keys and Deva’s lovely voice find themselves accompanied by a harsh vocal attack later on. Horror is the theme here, once again driven by keys and voices rather than riffs and leads.
The band, for all they stay in their creative lane, are doing quite a bit within that lane. “The Shuddering Giant,” another strong offering, storms the listener with powerful drums and a driving pace. White’s keys sound amazing, offsetting the low-recorded guitars and keeping the sound beefy and even a bit majestic.
The same is true for “Silent Conversations With Distant Stars.” The relentless drums underpinning White’s keys make a strong combination. Fans of Limbonic Art, mid-era Dimmu Borgir, and Old Man’s Child should find a home with Hecate Enthroned, and songs like this one exemplify that point. Especially considering that many of the bands who purported this style have either ceased to make music or morphed into other territory, Hecate Enthroned do the style justice.
Embrace of the Godless Aeon comes at an interesting time. Consider that the ultimate commercialization of the Symphonic Black Metal that Hecate Enthroned have played and helped shape since day one, after the mid-2000s, has led to a resurgence in orthodox Satanic Black Metal, the rise of suicidal/depressive Black Metal, as well as the growth of Black Metal influenced bands with themes of Nature or esoteric mysticism.
That Hecate Enthroned have steadfastly ignored rising and falling trends and kept their own faith is an admirable trait. While their sound does borrow heavily from the era out of which they were birthed, they have honed their compositions with such detail and focus, practicing exclusion with respect to cyclical trends in Metal.
Embrace of the Godless Aeon sees a band that does not overwork itself, producing a strong piece of art that should propel Hecate Enthroned deeper into the minds of underground connoisseurs everywhere. Cryptic Rock gives Embrace of the Godless Aeon 3.5 out of 5 stars.