Reviewed: October 2021
Released: 2021, Seance Records
Reviewer: Kira Levine
Forming almost twenty years ago, Australia’s Pestilential Shadows are no strangers to the themes of death and disease. They have returned 18 months into the pandemic with their sixth full-length Revenant, following up 2019’s compilation album The Fate of All That Lives: Impaled by the Moon.
“One of Australia’s longest-running and most respected black metal bands, PESTILENTIAL SHADOWS have been building a towering canon of work since 2003. Whereas many of their native land’s extreme metal exports either tend toward the chaotic or too clean, the shadowy collective led by founding vocalist/guitarist Balam consistently create compelling swathes of drama and darkness, all-enveloping emotion and regal-yet-gritty grandeur. Truly, PESTILENTIAL SHADOWS are black metal classicism par excellence.”
The record begins by luring the listener in with a rather ominous intro, “Procession of Souls,” before an echoed howl from Balam continues to disturb and unsettle. The harshness of his voice combined with the buzzing guitars really prepare the listener for what the rest of the song (and even the album) has in store. Throughout the track, there are certain lines that feel particularly poignant, such as “places forlorn with anguish,” and these specific phrases are typically delivered right before tempo changes, making the lyrics even more striking. A surprisingly folky approach makes an appearance towards the end, adding a brief sense of calm to the first song.
“Hunter and Reaper” is another song that keeps things exciting by travelling at various speeds, however the changes are more noticeable this time around. This second song seems to become more complex as it progresses, with even the slower periods in the last half carrying a more sinister vibe than the first few minutes.
After an intro commanded by a steady drum beat, “Twilight Congregation” interweaves atmospheric moments with traditional black metal making this the most modern-sounding offering on Revenant so far.
“The Sword of Damocles” lifts the mood with its triumphant, upbeat nature. The melodic riffs soar over the pummelling rhythm section in places to great effect. Despite being the shortest song on the album, it certainly stands out as one of the most memorable.
The spirit of the whole album seems to come together on title song “Revenant,” using many of the techniques heard in previous songs. However, the speedier parts seem especially gnarly here, layered with the haunting vocals. Even the quieter sections carry an air of insidiousness to them due to dramatic percussion from Basilysk.
Finale “Beneath the Dying Stars” is as captivating as the penultimate track, if not more. The raspy vocals are quite effective here, and arrive sounding like another instrument rather than a human voice. Decay and Somnus exhibit some interesting axe work here, the interplay between the two guitarists bridging the gap between a lighter and darker part of the last song. A softly spoken word verse follows, countering the animalistic snarl the rest of the lyrics are delivered in. Spanning over nine minutes, each moment is as epic as the next.
It’s quite plain to see why Pestilential Shadows are one of the biggest names in Australian black metal, and Revenant shows that they have still got what it takes nearly two decades after their inception.
For fans of Drowning The Light, Nazxul, and Nox Inferi.
1. Procession of Souls
2. Hunter and Reaper
3. Twilight Congregation
4. The Sword of Damocles
6. Beneath the Dying Stars
Balam – bass, vocals
Somnus – guitars
Basilysk – drums
Decay – guitars