Released: 2003, Dynamic Arts Records
n. pl. cal•var•i•ums or cal•var•i•a
The upper domelike portion of the skull without the lower jaw or the lower jaw and the facial parts.
Finland’s Calvarium have been around the metal scene for a few years now, forming in 2001 and releasing two demos before their first slab of black metal, THE SKULL OF GOLGOTHA, was released in 2003. Last year saw Calvarium release ASSAULTING THE DIVINE, a 4 song ep. Both of the band’s main releases went unnoticed by myself and as I have learned by listening to THE SKULL OF GOLGOTHA that it’s probably right that the band is left unnoticed.
Calvarium play semi-melodic and semi-atmospheric black metal. The band sees fit to retrace the footsteps of most of their Norwegian counterparts from 10 years ago with little to no deviation or creativity to add. Like many before them, the band moves from fast, chaotic, blast beat sections into slower, sombre, and atmospheric pieces, many times keeping them apart for separate songs while the odd time trying their best to mesh the two different feels together. Production wise this isn’t the most underproduced album ever, it’s far away from a Darkthrone or Xasthur but it’s not the slickest thing you’ll hear out there. In the realm of black metal though, I’d tend to argue that the sound on THE SKULL OF GOLGOTHA leans toward the clean end of the spectrum if not sitting nicely in the middle. The above statement about the production can easily be transferred to the band’s music, neither being good nor bad but sitting in the middle. I don’t know if the band’s thoughts are that if they don’t take the risk they won’t have to fall but the bottom line is that the album feels like their going through the motions to create a cookie cutter album.
My general impression of the band’s music is that when they work in the slower tempos (“Jumalviha”, “Suicide Manifesto”) it tends to drag. The band’s intentions, at least what I get from the lyrics, is to create a sad, suicidal atmosphere but for all intents purposes they fail as they only create a need to switch tracks. Things aren’t much better when blastbeat sections are used (“Death Worship”, “Siunatan Surma”, “Morbid Hordes Revenge”, “Dedication in Misantrophy”) there’s nothing memorable there but the blasting, which isn’t even that impressive I might add. The riffs for these sections carry nothing memorable about them, usually going by with no flare and only exist for the sake of existing, rather than truly creating something. What tends to work better for the band is when they work in the more mid-tempo sections, when the riffs remind one of old school black metal. A perfect example is in “Horns of Hate”, directly after the blasting section at 25 seconds in. This riff and section with vocals is actually memorable, sticking out among the bland, half-baked ideas. Now, whether it’s actually a good riff is debateable, maybe it’s just the fact that it’s sitting amongst such dismal ideas that it works so well.
Calvarium’s “The Skull of Golgotha” is what I would consider the epitome of manufactured black metal. Not because it’s meant for mass-marketing or because it’s mainstream but because it’s so by the numbers and full of lifeless ideas. It’s true that black metal has a habit of feeling cold and alien but it shouldn’t feel like it’s dead.