A band who have considered the black metal life-style more than most, Black Crucifixion were figureheads in the scene when it started to attain popularity and thus promptly reacted by disappearing for ten years, only reappearing in 2006 with a new album that blew away the cobwebs and once again showcased the band as not only leaders of the genre but also as arch innovators keen on keeping the creative flame of black metal burning. Here, as the band reach their 20th anniversary, Black Crucifixion unleash ‘hope of retaliation’, a crushing reminder of the band’s potency that features four studio tracks as well as five live tracks which slice right to the bone with their searing incisiveness.
Opening with ‘retaliation’ it is clear that the years have done nothing to blunt the force of Black Crucifixion’s convictions. A raging, well-honed blast of abrasive black metal, it features a notably weighty bottom end that rumbles through the speakers as well as a biting vocal performance and the band’s trademark hurricane guitars, wrapping the listener up in a cocoon of black metal noise that recalls the ambitious might of acts such as Celtic Frost allied to a cutting edge production that sees the music roaring out of the speakers with an unholy vigour. The poetically titled ‘night birds sing your demise’ transpires to be a nightmarish interlude, all the deep throbbing bass of the cello and eerie whispered voices in the darkness, showcasing the band’s more artistic notions before ‘blood soaked snow’ unleashes a cacophony of white-hot guitar and strangled vocalisations to staggering effect. The final studio track, ‘bitten by the long frosts of life’ is a frozen trip through blackened wastelands, the guitars a tar-soaked trawl, with each chord echoing the pained footstep of some doomed soul, trudging ever-closer towards their demise. Gruesome and fiendishly inventive it is the best of the four original tracks on offer and it makes you wish the band had not remained quite so aloof for so long, although grateful they have chosen to return at this point with material of such quality.
The remaining tracks flesh out the record by demonstrating the fearsome prowess of the band onstage thanks to an excellent production job that sees tracks such as ‘where will you hide’ leap from the speakers with a rather unexpected vigour and sense of purpose. Given the searing vitality of this CD/Vinyl version, one can only imagine the crushing intensity of actually bearing witness to one of the band’s shows, with the music running over you and through you and the bass comprehensively rearranging your internal organs in a way that a recorded version, no matter what the volume, can never quite achieve. No matter, ‘master spirit’ is rendered with a beautiful rock ‘n’ roll abandon that recalls the unconscious revelry of classic Darkthrone, ‘promethean gift’ is a darkly atmospheric and regal outing that hints at the lost-age of kings before taking a sideways step into pure, deathly Motorhead territory. ‘Serpent of your holy garden’ is a more Celtic Frost-esque number that has an oddly-timed yet unerringly powerful delivery and final track ‘Winterkill’ closes the release in true blackened style.
Limited to a mere 39 minutes as the band sensibly worship the black-platter of vinyl, ‘hope of retaliation’ never outstays its welcome. Rather it serves as a most potent reminder of the bristling power of Black Crucifixion and a just celebration of their blackened might. Aloof, proud and capable of blistering musicianship, this is a fine release for all black metal fans and a fierce challenge to more commercially orientated bands within the scene. Immense.