A testament to progression
Three years have passed since I last checked in with Seattle’s Book of Black Earth on their sophomore release, Horoskopus, which was an album that showed a hell of a lot of promise but was ultimately a little on the underwhelming side and certainly didn’t warrant much in the way of repeat listens. That somewhat disappointing state of affairs is all set to change, however, with Book of Black Earth’s third release, The Cold Testament.
For my money every sign of potential and promise the band hinted at on Horoskopus has been realised with The Cold Testament which has seen the band lose a keyboard player (and, as a consequence, the more experimental side of their sound altogether) and gain a hell of a lot more musical focus and direction than I’ve heard from them before. From second zero right through to the closing moments of the album the crusty blackened death metal act pummel and crunch their way through a collection of songs that are not only heavy and musically engaging but are also tight and punchy with a single-minded purpose and an unwavering delivery. There’s absolutely no fucking about here and this new found ability to, well, write songs that get to the point immediately and stick to it is a massive step up from the last time I checked in with the band.
The most impressive aspect of The Cold Testament is the band’s ability to write songs that are abrasive and raw as hell but still retain a very catchy and even accessible quality about them, not to mention a very pronounced sense of melody as well. There’s a pretty strong observance of the verse/chorus pattern present throughout the album and this mainstay of innumerable musical genres has proven to be a very good choice for Book of Black Earth by allowing the band some musical freedom while providing some easily navigable in-roads for the listener at the same time.
A lot of the album’s ferocity comes from its particularly good production that emphasises the crustiness of the guitars and brings the powerful drumming of Joe Axler to the fore. In fact, from my perspective, Axler’s drumming plays just as important a role in crafting the overall feel of this album as do the guitars and the high levelling of his kit in the mix is a reflection and endorsement of his contribution to the material.
With its sense of immediacy, the snappy and catchy song writing and its good old fashioned heaviness, The Cold Testament is a resounding success for Book of Black Earth who have clearly spent the past three years between releases having a good hard think about what they want to do with their music and how they’re going to do it. From where I’m standing it’s been three years well spent.