A simple mind exercise for the interested black metal listener when he encounters a new piece of music is to strip away all peripherals from its core; take away the harsh vocals, push the production and aesthetic to the backbench, reduce the steady wash of tremolo picking to their individual, singly-plucked notes so that the melody and nothing else stands prominent. Eliminate crosstalk and clutter in the mind to as large a degree as possible so that a relatively undiluted and homogeneous essence makes itself known. This isn’t to discount the role that the above sidelined attributes play in the overall potency of black metal, but far too often they are distractions that take away focus from songwriting; considering them in an auxilliary capacity helps to realign the listener’s priorities.
Canadian one-man project Pagan Hellfire‘s fifth album is some of the finest black metal of recent vintage and a glowing example of how traditional, easily recognizable black metal tropes can be used in the service of making a vital and emotionally stirring album. Accusations of unoriginality will no doubt be leveled at this album for On The Path To Triumph is unabashedly of an old Norwegian nature while being simultaneously inspired by Graveland‘s epic stylings. But here’s the thing; progress or evolution does not necessarily have to be a linear, upward scaling process. It can be lateral and it can be multi-pronged also. There does not have to be an outright severing with the past for something to be entirely legitimate of its own standing, nor does building on the past have to mean razing the building blocks themselves to the ground. Melodies and the emotions they evoke are timeless, the manner of their delivery is only transient. Pagan Hellfire toils to expand the emotional vocabulary of traditional black metal in minute increments and is an all the more enriching experience for it.