Released: 2013, World Terror Committee
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Before getting into the main body of this review for Surrealist Satanist, German black metallers Paria's third effort, it's worth considering asking this: as a black metal fan (and I'm assuming you are to be reading this review), do you consider the genre's best days as confined to the vaults of history or just ahead, shrouded in misty Nordic mountains?
If your answer to that sided with the latter, then Surrealist Satanist may not be your cup of mead. It is an album whose overall sound would sit reasonably well amongst the likes of In The Nightside Eclipse and Hvis Lyset Tar Oss back in the early 90s during the rise of the second wave of black metal from Norway, as opposed to here in the digital greyness of 2013. The production has an element of rawness to it, but unlike many an album from “underground” bands during that era, there is a crispness to proceedings here – the drums are clear and bombastic; the guitars and bass marry well together to generate a fine mix of treble guitar grind and bass rumble; and the vocals are crisp with aid from their high placement in the mix.
So with a mix that harks to their contemporaries of the 90s, we then must ask: is the album any good? In short, not bad at all. Having been around since 1995, Paria clearly know their trade and know what to do in order to create a powerful and atmospheric album. Akeon's riffs grind and evolve, incorporating the tremolo 6-string chord we know and love as well as discordant arpeggios, harmonic squeals and tremolo licks; whilst Panderdaemon howls and gargles his way through a chaotic and cacophonous background of blast beats and double bass, courtesy of Gonzo Goatpestilence. But it is in the former two where one can find a drawback to the album – the execution cannot be faulted, but the content seems a little uninspired. If you've listened to a fair bit of black metal, you'll hear all the usual traits here and as a result the guitar riffs - played at a relentless pace - blur into one another whilst the vocals, though clear, raspy and typically-snarling, are simply the above with no variation. The tempo rarely slows and, whilst technically superb in demonstrating considerable command and skill over the instrument, seems almost like a hindrance. Whilst it can viewed as uninspired, it's not the proverbial deal-breaker – the band play second-wave black metal, they stick to it and perform it well.
That being said, when the tempo does slow, noticeably in “(Behold) The Face Of The Timeless Usher” and “Sodosphinx”, it feels more emotive and gives another impact to the faster sections when they return. Naturally overdoing it would lose all effect, but Paria could have benefitted considerably in using this a little more through the course of the album – atmosphere is an oft-used facet of black metal and the changes in tempo allow changes in atmosphere to become more pronounced; theirs at times seems to focus too much on the chaotic.
Whilst in the realms of tempo and beats, the major upshot to Surrealist Satanist is the drumming. The blasting is technically proficient and well-executed whilst there are little inflections in both the fills and normal passages (listen out for the triplet-y ride cymbal lick in “Oceans Of Spermwhite Solitude” or the rapid fills during “(Behold) The Face Of The Timeless Usher”) that add an extra special dimension to proceedings. There is an energy about the drums (disregarding the blasting) that gives the album a lift and makes for an interesting listen. For instance, in the Nile-esque descent that is “Sodomsphinx”, the drums let up and begin a punk-like stomp which begs to be head-banged to, with the same occurring in “The Green Angels Of Obscurity” - the energy filters through to the rest of the band and makes these tracks stand out from the pack.
Comparing Surrealist Satanist as a whole to that of those aforementioned albums of the 90s as if it were from that time, it certainly fits in with them – energy, ferocity and atmosphere permeate all of them with excellent musicianship abound. But given that Surrealist Satanist is an album from 2013 as opposed to 1993, it almost seems like a hark back to Paria's belief of the heyday of black metal. Were Paria a new band to the metal community and this album their debut, one could certainly argue that convincingly. But given that they formed around the time of the supposed heyday of their genre and have released seven demos, one split and one compilation before their 2008 debut album and subsequent 2011 sophomore effort, it seems more like they are continuing to bear the torch from that time. As a result, therein lies another strength to the album – Paria's experience gives them an upper hand in their craft.
It does raise the question: would this review's criticism hold up if Surrealist Satanist had been released around the time from which Paria formed? Honestly, no it wouldn't. The album sounds like a potential contemporary to those mentioned earlier and were it released at that time, then the uninspired riffs and vocals would sound fresher. Alas, it isn't from back then and thus sounds similar to those classics – not necessarily a bad thing, but in terms of originality, Paria are a little late to the party.
However, if you are looking for a relentless and cold nostalgia trip to the birth of black metal's secondary pioneers, then this album will fit the bill beautifully.
Review by Lee Carter