Album Title: On Wings of Mercury
Label: Barbarian Wrath
This is the second full-length release from Anael, a German band playing atmospheric black metal.
The sound on this album reminds me of Greek greats like Necromantia -- crisp and clear, yet heavily atmospheric. The vocals are mostly snarled, though there's some clean singing now and again, very tastefully done.
Anael's last album was full-on Samael worship, but on this record they've branched out into a sound of their own. There's still plenty of Samael in their slow, deliberate pacing and evil riffing, but there's a lot more variety here. Relentlessly mid-paced, these songs unfold around wicked first-wave guitar and tortured vocals. The word "occult" has been thrown around an awful lot with regards to this kind of music, but with songs like "On Wings of Mercury", this band really does conjure an image of esoteric midnight rituals. The echoing, menacing riff that accompanies "as below, so above" on the intro of that track is just amazing! The chorus from "Call of the Eastern Tower" is also particularly great, with some interesting interplay between the vocals and guitar. Though the overarching sound is similar, each song has a little something of its own that makes it unique, like the middle-eastern touch on "Marching Through Babylon's Gates", or the abrupt start-and-stop riffing on "Slayeress of Kings".
This is an album with wide appeal; the guitar work is evil enough to appeal to the raw black metal crowd, and the songs are memorable enough for those who crave more atmospheric metal. You can't really go wrong with this one, especially if you still mourn for the ancient black metal sound of bands like Samael, Mortuary Drape, and Varathron. Highly recommended.
Standout Tracks: "On Wings of Mercury", "Marching Through Babylon's Gates", "Call of the Eastern Tower"