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Nockmaar / Heralding Breath of the Pestilence (2001)
 

Nockmaar is the first demo from Sargeist, recorded in 1999. Two years later, it was re-released with newer versions of two of its three songs. Even the expanded version is rather short. At this point, the project did not resemble the Sargeist that we would come to know later on.

Compared to Haudankylmyyden Mailla, the Horna album released that same year, this sounds very different. The necro sound of Nockmaar is a far cry from the almost crystal clear production of Horna's third full-length and sounds like Shatraug's attempt at creating his own Wrath of the Tyrant. The vocals are buried in the mix and the guitars possess a rather soft tone since the hissing and poor production do not allow for any sort of rawness. It sounds fuzzy, but very non-threatening, which does not help the music.

The songwriting is not all that spectacular. These tracks could be forgotten demos of any of the old Norwegian bands, really. One can definitely hear a little Burzum, during the slower open-arpeggio section of "Swords & Fire". "Heralding Breath of the Pestilence" shows influence from Emperor, one of Shatraug's favourite bands. There is nothing bad about the songs, here, though they are a bit generic. Still, for anyone that appreciates this style, there really are no complaints, other than the poor sound that seems to favour the drums over all else. The re-recorded versions are a little puzzling, as they do not sound different enough to really warrant releasing two versions. Even the sound quality is the same.

Nockmaar / Heralding Breath of the Pestilence gets no points for originality, but these are merely demos where Sargeist was still searching for its own voice. Shatraug did  good job in paying tribute to the early '90s style of Black Metal that he has done so well in keeping alive ever since. There is no experimentation, here, just grim and necro Black Metal that should please fans of the old Norwegian scene as well as the LLN.
 
(20 Aug. 2013)

 


Sargeist first came to my attention with their debut full-length, Satanic Black Devotion. I was very glad to find a band that was still being faithful to this style of Black Metal, while also actually possessing talent and creating exceptionally good music. It was only several months after the release of the band's second album that I sought out their earlier material. Thankfully, Tyranny Returns had just been reissued on CD not long before then. Originally released in 2001, this demo shows a very rough version of what Sargeist would become.

Speaking of rough, the production is very low-quality, though not in a way that would make your ears bleed. After the over-produced Sudentaival, from Horna, Shatraug's subsequent efforts seemed to get more raw and to go in the opposite direction. That is certainly the case, here. While sounding very necro and hellish, the guitar tone is softened by the hissing and almost comes across as soft. One can still follow what is going on, despite the distortion, but the drums often fade into the background. At times, the bass seems to drown out the guitar, which is certainly detrimental to the overall sound. The vocals are a little low, though this is for the best as Shatraug's voice is not always the best.

There are not a lot of surprises, regarding the songwriting. Anyone familiar with Satanic Black Devotion or Disciple of the Heinous Path would not have a hard time guessing what most of this sounds like, being demo material that was written around the same time. However, "Night of Sacred Wisdom" is likely to shock most listeners and stands out from the rest of the songs. From the keyboards to the goth-inspired clean vocals, this might be enough to have some people double-checking to make sure the right CD is playing. Other tracks, such as "Anti-Human Black Metal Wrath" and "Dark Fortress" show a band that is still searching for its own voice, coming off as rather generic when compared to their later efforts. There is a lot of Darkthrone influence in the songwriting, especially noticeable on "The Impaler Prince", which immediately calls to mind "Over Fjell og Gjennom Torner" from Transilvanian Hunger. In fact, it sounds like outright plagiarism, at times. Nonetheless, this is probably the best song on the demo. Similarly, "Iron, Blood & Blasphemy" sounds like a mix between "Born for Burning" by Bathory and "In Holocaust to the Natural Darkness" by Vlad Tepes. Still, being an early demo of a new project, it is only normal that Shatraug was toying with various influences, in his search for the appropriate voice that would enable him to express that which he wished to, without necessarily sounding just like his primary band. "Sinister Glow of the Funeral Torches" sounds a bit different from the later version, due to the washed-out production and the addition of synth. Thankfully, this element was dropped prior to the first album.

Tyranny Returns is an interesting look at the earliest stages of Sargeist's existence. It is certainly not essential, but may prove worth a listen for fans of the band. Whether or not it is more of a curiosity thing or if it warrants repeated listens depends on your taste. There is very little here that foreshadows the brilliance of their later offerings and even the best song on this demo is a total rip-off of Darkthrone. Regardless, if you are not seeking something all that great and just want to hear some gritty Black Metal, this may satisfy you. Just do not expect the same quality as found on Satanic Black Devotion.
 
(19 Aug. 2013)

 
Satanic Black Devotion (2003)
 
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Satanic Black Devotion is the first full-length from the Finnish Black Metal band Sargeist, a side-project of Horna's guitarist/songwriter Shatraug. This is a great album. The production is good and follows closely to the standards set by the Norwegian scene of the early 90s. The melodies are very introspective and mournful at times. Each song has its own identity, that is, if you are actually familiar with raw Black Metal. The Darkthrone influence is obvious, yet it is unmistakably Finnish. The melodies give it away, immediately. There is variation in tempo just where needed, and the mix of the vocals is flawless. The atmosphere is evil and melancholic. This is absolutely not over-produced and the drums are low in the mix, where they belong, and the focus is on guitar melodies.

The various songs maintain an identity of their own and flow together nicely. From the opener, "Satanic Black Devotion", to the closer, "Returning to Misery & Comfort", this album delivers everything you'd expect. Sargeist is one of the few decent Black Metal bands currently putting out quality material, and stand out as elite among the Finnish scene. This is vastly superior to Shatraug's main band, Horna.

A short intro gives the feeling of a ritual torturing and imbues the listener with a sense of dread. "Satanic Black Devotion" begins with tremolo riffs, blastbeats and high-pitches, raspy vocals. This album owes quite a bit to Transilvanian Hunger, in my view, but does very well to stand on its own. The main riff of the title track is very mournful, and this atmosphere is maintained throughout the album. The pace does to change much during this first song.

"Obire Pestis" continues much like the opener, being fast-paced. "Frowning Existing" begins the same, but changes pace after a short time. This one features more mid-paced sections as well as a different, more tormented, vocalist. The melodies really stand out and by this point one can get a good sense of what the rest of the album will deliver. "Glorification" begins in a mid-paced manner, before speeding up like the rest. This was the first song I heard by this band, on a Moribund sampler and was the reason I checked them out in 2004. The title track is the one that hooked me and resulted in the album coming home with me.

"Panzergod" begins intensely, and open up the second half of the album well enough. This song is easily identifiable while still sounding like the rest. Sargeist have been so consistent with the songs that it will take something very remarkable to be worthy of standing above the rest. "Black Fucking Murder" features one of the catchier riffs on the album, during the chorus, and displays the same consistency that can be found throughout. This is the one that most people will probably gravitate toward.

I always dislike when a band names themselves after one of their songs (or vice versa) but, nevertheless, "Sargeist" is one of the best songs on the album. A morbid, depressive atmosphere is present at all times, as with the rest of the album. The melodies are epic while the execution is very minimalist. There is a very memorable, almost folky, riff that blends in seamlessly. This sort of thing I identify with Finland, for some reason. This song features a few more tempo changes than are found on other songs, which is a good thing to have so deep into the album. Very memorable riffs.

Finally, "Returning to Misery & Comfort" ends the album with, what I consider, the best song on here. This is cold and mournful. The song is fast-paced, but then shifts into a mid-paced riff that is very melancholic and introspective. The lyrics tell of cold hatred and sorrow for what has passed. Sargeist are very wise to begin the album with a strong track, but then to end with the two best ones on the album. This did a good job of making me look forward to the following release, Disciple of the Heinous Path, which came out about a year after I discovered this band. The brilliant down-tempo riff that appeared earlier makes its return a couple more times and ends the album perfectly. It gives the feeling that everything is winding down and coming to an end. This is the point when sorrow and grief overtake the listener and the blood begins to flow...
 
(15 Jan. 2008)

 
 

Between the release of their first and second full-length albums, Sargeist participated in a few split releases. Among them was the 2004 split with Horned Almighty, In Ruin & Despair / To the Lord of Our Lives, released on Hearse Records. For the purposes of this review, however, only the Sargeist material will be covered.

I actually didn't come across this until a couple years after its release, obtaining Satanic Black Devotion and Disciple of the Heinous Path first. As a result, I was not fully prepared for what I would hear on these tracks. The quality is a bit poorer than the full-length albums, which was somewhat of a turn-off since they achieved an ideal sound for the type of music that they play. Nevertheless, the material is actually very solid, even if it sounds more like a mixture of Mütiilation and Shatraug's primary band, Horna. It would appear that these split albums were used to offer up material that did not quite fit in with the bulk of what they were writing, around the time, thus not really being suitable for either L.P.

The sound here is very raw and primitive, with many more old school riffs and song structures thrown in. The title track features a rather eerie riff, at the beginning, which enables the band to start creating a morbid atmosphere. After a couple minutes, the pace picks up and the sound is a little more in line with the first album. The tremolo riffs, fast drumming and the hellish vocals all show a strong influence from the Second Wave bands.

"Quest the Blessing of Evil" sort of reminds one of the opening riff to Death's Scream Bloody Gore album. However, the way that this is played is one of the things that seems reminiscent of Mütiilation. Even the vocals hearken back to that band's demo days. The song is rather simplistic and does not do a whole lot to expand on the ideas presented, which goes to show why this is far more appropriate for this type of release.

The third song is "Profane Bleeding Call", which maintains a faster pace, though still some of the riffs seem as if they could have come from the aforementioned French band. Over all, this is the one song that most sounds as if it would fit well on one of Sargeist's proper albums. The feeling conveyed is a little dismal and may put the listener in a trance, if given the proper attention.

"At the Altar of the Beast" is the final Sargeist track, and it possesses more of an old school feeling, with riffs and melodies that conjure up old demons from the early period of Black Metal. It's a shame that more of this type of approach is not present on any of the albums, as this would easily suit their style of playing.

In Ruin & Despair is certainly an interesting piece of music, and worth the time and effort for all Sargeist fans to track down. It is not exactly essential, when compared to the rest of their discography, but it definitely holds its own and does not disappoint.
 
(8 Sept. 2011)

 
 

Funeral Curses was released in September 2005, by Adversary Productions, just weeks before Disciple of the Heinous Path emerged from the shadows. This collection was only available on cassette and featured six Sargeist songs that had previously been released on various compilations and splits, up until that point. The general idea was a good one, to gather up these tracks all in one place for fans of the band, yet a limited cassette release was not really the best way to go about doing this.

The songwriting is very similar to that found on Satanic Black Devotion and Disciple of the Heinous Path, though there is an even stronger feeling of melancholy in some of the tremolo melodies. "The Rebirth of a Cursed Existence", for example, features a mixture of fast and slower parts, though the vibe is sombre throughout. The thrashier riffs are alost reminiscent of old Mütiilation. "Sinister Glow of Funeral Torches" possesses a very morbid atmosphere, consisting of slower and darker riffs than some of the other tracks on here. "Reaping With Curses and Plague" features Shatraug on vocals, sounding more tormented than Hoath Torog and hearkening back to the first Horna demo. At times, it feels like Sargeist started out as a continuation of the style that existed on Varjoissa, and this song really brings that to the forefront. The closing moments of the song really has a sorrowful and epic feeling, something that will haunt your mind long after the tape has finished. As for "Cursed By the Flesh I Have Spared", this song previously appeared as a bonus track on the L.P. version of the first album, which makes little sense as it is just as strong as the rest of the material on there, so there was no reason to limit its inclusion. The only forgettable song on here is "Vorax Obscurum", which has more of a punk vibe and does not really fit in with the rest. "Wraith Messiah" makes up for this, being much more in line with the other compositions, yet maybe even more melancholic. During the more down-tempo parts, you can almost feel icy claws reaching into your chest and squeezing your heart, soon to rip it right out. It may be the highlight of this whole collection.

The production is not exactly the same, from song to song, so it is likely that they come from different recording sessions. Over all, they sound rather similar to the first album, though not nearly as powerful and somewhat quiet by comparison. This sounds very underground, though not exactly necro. There is a little hissing over the music, but not a lot. Every riff can still be easily heard and there is never a time when things run together and become a noisy mess. The bass is a bit more audible than usual, during some of the slower sections, though this kind of helps add to the dreary atmosphere.

This tape shows, again, just how creative Shatraug is and one has to be impressed with the fact that, though some similarities exist between this and his primary band Horna, it also possesses its own identity. Funeral Curses is very much worth seeking out, as it contains rare songs that are mostly high-quality. The only downside is that this compilation, itself, may also be a little hard to track down. Either way, this is essential listening for Sargeist fans or those into the early '90s style of Black Metal.
 
(10 Aug. 2013)

 
Disciple of the Heinous Path (2005)
 

Disciple of the Heinous Path is the second full-length from Sargeist. Written in 2001, at the same time as the material on Satanic Black Devotion, this maintains the same atmosphere created on their first album. It would seem that, along with other Finnish bands like Clandestine Blaze, Sargeist is keeping more true to the old Norwegian sound than the current output from that country. The feeling from Darkthrone's Under A Funeral Moon and Transilvanian Hunger is still present, much like on their debut L.P.

The album begins with "Black Treasures of Melancholy". The song starts with a fairly fast pace, featuring mournful and introspective tremolo-picked harmonies. Torog's vocals are much the same as on the previous album, though maybe slightly less reverb. There is more of a gargled quality to them, rather than screaming. Shatraug's trademark songwriting is present, and this could not be mistaken for another band.

"Remains of an Unholy Past" begins with a slightly faster tempo than the previous song, and the tremolo melodies are dark and haunting. These depressive harmonies will take root in the murky recesses of your mind and obsess you. Lyrically, this is definitely a tribute to bands such as Mayhem and Darkthrone. After a few minutes, the pace changes, in sort of an unpleasant way. The galloping riffs aren't so bad, yet the one in between them is entirely pointless and the song is sort of derailed. A couple minutes later, the main theme returns and the cold and hopeless feeling returns.

The next song is "Cursed Blaze of Rituals". This is much slower than the previous two, and imbues the listener with a sense of misery. The open-arpeggio riffs are reminiscent of Burzum. The vocals on this one are very obscure. This possesses the morbid atmosphere of cold graveyards. Halfway through, the song speeds up to kind of a gallop. This doesn't last too long, as the song returns the the previous riff.

The title track is another mid-paced affair, beginning with a very memorable and miserable open-arpeggio riff. The feeling of despair is thick in the dark fog that surrounds you. A few minutes into the song, the riffs change, building sort of an epic feeling before the song speeds up. At no point does the atmosphere if the song get lost, through any of these changes. Everything flows together well.

The cold and grim feeling continues on "Heretic Iron Will". Your feeble spirit is trapped within a swirling black cloud of utter torment. The slow riffs transition to faster ones, alternating back and forth with a catchier riff, which is typical of Shautraug's style. This seems to be pretty standard for Finnish bands, in general. Keeping within the established framework of early 90s Norwegian Black Metal, Sargeist manages to make things interesting, as each song is easily identifiable.

"Echoes From a Morbid Night" is the final song of the album, beginning with fast tremolo riffs and blasting drums. The song alternates between faster and slower riffs, always keeping an epic feeling. There is truly a sense of finality to these harmonies, and it would serve well as the soundtrack for one who is left to lay on the freezing ground, deep in the forest, bleeding in the moonlight.

Other than one odd riff that seemed out of place, there is nothing to complain about, regarding this album. If you appreciated Satanic Black Devotion, this should be no different. The only exception may be that these songs are more mid-paced. If you are looking for a morbid and melancholic atmosphere, then you should get this.
 
(1 Mar. 2009)

 
 

Eight months after the release of their sophomore effort, Disciple of the Heinous Path, Sargeist broke their silence with a split album with Bahimiron. This review will focus solely on the Sargeist material, as the other band is of no consequence. Recorded at the Boneyard during the previous spring, "Dead Ravens Memory" was finally released by Obscure Abhorrence Productions, in May 2006.

This song is very much in the same vein as the material from the last full-length, and would have fit in with those songs, nicely. It maintains a fast pace throughout, though it does feature some variation in tempo. Torog's tormented voice compliments the mournful and haunting guitar riffs that bleed forth from Shatraug. Horns does a good job keeping the pace, without detracting from the rest. The production is similar to Disciple of the Heinous Path, though it retains an added sense of rawness that, likely, comes from not being properly mastered. Though this track is six minutes long, it simply is not enough to satiate the hunger of the band's loyal following. Even worse, it would be the last that anyone heard of Sargeist for two and a half years.

This is essential for any Sargeist fan, as "Dead Ravens Memory" is on par with most of the material that had been released, up to this point. Why the band bothers to do split albums with unworthy partners is beyond me. That said, ignore the other song and seek this out.
 
(19 Oct. 2011)

 
 

In November 2008, well over three years since their last full-length album, Sargeist released The Dark Embrace, through Moribund Records. This 7" E.P. was limited to 1000 copies and featured the first new songs that the band had recorded in two and a half years. At the time, it was a welcome sign that this group was, indeed, still alive and functioning. What listeners can expect is another dose of raw Black Metal, retaining the old school approach and production of the early Second Wave, with the distinctive Finnish sense of melody.

The title track begins with a mournful riff that is not too far removed from Horna's more recent material. However, the overall feeling is still more identifiable as belonging to Sargeist. The more melodic sections blend well into the faster tremolo riffs and it really is reminiscent of Satanic Black Devotion, in a sense. The main theme is very memorable in a haunting way, and manages to remain embedded in your skull long after the music has ended.

"The Crown of Burning Stars" starts with an eerie intro that conveys a very gloomy and despondent feeling. In a way, this causes the listener to lower their guard, caught unprepared as the main riff then bursts from the darkness. The tremolo melody is more ambitious than those of the previous song, though maybe not as instantly memorable. It requires a couple listens before its full impact can be felt.

The Dark Embrace is very brief, especially for those of us who had waited three years for another album. In the past, the band didn't seem to give split releases the same type of attention as the full-lengths, since I always felt that there was something lacking. However, in the case of this E.P. they broke away from this, providing songs that are of the same high quality that one would expect from their albums. Sometimes, bands release an E.P. to keep the fans sated while they are working on a new record or just to keep their name out there. This is a rather obscure release, as it came in the middle of a five-year dry spell and was limited to so few copies. Whatever the case, it's a worthy addition to their discography and fans should seek this out, if at all possible.
 
(21 Dec. 2010)

 
 

Five years have passed since the last Sargeist full-length. Shatraug has been extremely busy during this time, releasing a large amount of material with his primary band, Horna. As for Sargeist, only a couple split albums and a single E.P. have stood as proof that the project had not been laid to rest. The wait has been, at times, quite excruciating. However, November 2010 marked the release of their third record, Let the Devil In, on Moribund Records.

Of all the high-quality bands to come out of the Finnish Black Metal scene, Sargeist has always been my favourite. From the first time that I heard Satanic Black Devotion, I recognized something special about this particular group. Shatraug's trademark songwriting style was present, but somehow this deviated from the material that he had written for Horna. For those that have not heard this band, you are missing out on something truly powerful. Working within the established boundaries of the Second Wave Black Metal sound, Sargeist manages to implement these well-known tactics and still create something that is unique and entirely identifiable as their own. And therein lies the magic of this band; they remain true to the roots of this musical style, paying homage to those that paved the way, and yet there are also elements that build upon this foundation and take the listener deeper into oblivion.

Let the Devil In picks right up where Disciple of the Heinous Path left off, in many ways. In fact, though the first two albums have quite a bit of sentimental value for me, this one may be superior in that the various tempos and riffs are arranged seamlessly, with no awkward changes or strange riffs to bridge from one theme to another. All of the same ingredients can be found, such as the mournful tremolo melodies, the mid-paced and somber riffs and even a few galloping sections that add even more to the old school feeling. Where there were a couple of oddly arranged parts on the previous record, which hindered the overall atmosphere, this is wholly absent from Let the Devil In. Everything fits together very well, and in no way distracts from the atmosphere being created. The feelings conveyed are those of darkness and a somber sense of despondency that permeates the majority of the riffs. Many of the guitar melodies stick with you after the first listen, but to fully appreciate the album it is best to sit in total solitude and focus on the sounds in utter darkness or only the light of a few candles. This is not mere background noise, it requires some effort on the part of the listener, and you will find that deeper concentration will allow you to fall deeper into the dark realm conjured up by this album.

The production is not far off from their previous releases. The rough edges of Disciple of the Heinous Path are slightly smoothed, and that is in the most minimal sense as I can possibly indicate. It is comparable to Horna's Musta Kaipuu; raw enough to suit the music while retaining enough clarity for the melodies to be heard. The sound isn't exactly bitter cold; more like the feeling of slight warmth from the funeral torches as one wanders through the frozen gravelands. The main focus seems to be exactly where it needs to be, and that is on the guitar riffs. The drums are just loud enough to do their job in keeping the tempo, but not so much that they would distract from the melodies. In other words, this is Black Metal done right. There is no double-bass dominating the album and carrying the music as in many modern releases. As for Hoath Torog's vocals, he gives an excellent performance and really suits the vibe of the music. In addition, his accent adds to the exotic feeling of the music, as one can notice when reading the lyric sheet and following along with the music.

Let the Devil In contains absolutely no filler. There are no intros or outros, no instrumental interludes, no songs that are overly repetitive for the sake of reaching a certain length. The material is remarkably strong, and this is evident from the early moments of "Empire of Suffering" as the mournful tremolo riffs envelope you in a whirlwind of hate and misery. The half-paced sections really do well to stick to your brain, immediately. This carries on with each successive song. It also becomes clear that the structure of the album was given a lot of attention, with each song placed precisely where it needed to be. Unlike most modern Black Metal bands that simply copy what came before with no original input, whatsoever, and just cram a bunch of noise onto the album, Sargeist have worked to carefully and methodically craft something beyond what mere impostors could ever hope to achieve.

There is almost a sense of beauty in the utter darkness that is evoked here. Listening to the main riff of "Burning Voice of Adoration", for example, almost seems to lull you into a trance and take you somewhere beyond the realm of the mundane, to a otherworldly dimension where things seem to take on more significance. Songs like "Nocturnal Revelation" truly embody an incredibly gloomy and menacing sentiment that few bands are capable of calling forth. "As Darkness Tears the World Apart" displays an epic and majestic sensibility in the guitar melodies, transcending the pedestrian approach of their contemporaries. The overall atmosphere is undeniably dark and projects a deep hatred for life and light. Also, as can be expected, there is a powerful disdain for the religious sheep and the Great Lie that is professed by believers of the Judeo-Christian mythology. This is rather typical for Black Metal, but you definitely get the sense that it is very genuine in Sargeist's case, rather than a product of style.

"I invert the cross of hope
And dwell in black despair
Every moment of every day
I'm blasphemy incarnate"

It is a crime that this band is not more well-known as they have continued to raise the bar for what modern Black Metal releases should be striving to accomplish; strict adherence to the traditions of the style and keeping the old school spirit alive, while building upon that foundation to produce something admirable and worthwhile. In the last year or two, several Black Metal bands have released impressive albums, including Burzum, Gorgoroth and Immortal. As good as those have been, none of them manage to capture the pure darkness and genuine feeling of Sargeist's latest opus. In a word, Let the Devil In is brilliant and it is highly recommended that you seek this out and listen to it immediately. Fans of their previous efforts will not be disappointed and those new to the band will be instantly converted.
 
(19 Dec. 2010)

 
 

Crimson Wine / As the Blood Flows On... is a split E.P. that features Sargeist and a worthless band by the name of Drowning the Light. For one reason or another, Shatraug and his cohorts do not seem to mind associating themselves with low-level bands that are not worth the time or attention. This split continues the tradition of partnering with useless scum, though I suppose it does well to make their own material look that much better by comparison. This 7" was released through Moribund Records, in February 2011, and limited to 500 copies.

Written and recorded in July 2007, "Crimson Wine" sat on the shelf for quite some time. The production is pretty rough, being much less clear than the full-length albums. Oddly, Sargeist has a habit of contributing songs various split albums that sound as if they were not mastered at all. This is much more raw and necro than the songs on Satanic Black Devotion or Disciple of the Heinous Path, which is saying something. The vocals are buried in the mix, compared to those albums, but not to the extent where Torog's voice cannot be heard at all. The drumming is clear enough, though it tends to blend into the background during the faster sections. Of course, the guitar is the dominant element here, yet even this is more distorted than usual. The song is mid-paced and possesses a morbid feeling, thanks in part to the open chords that are utilized, on and off, throughout the song. There is a decent amount of variation in tempo, keeping the track from stagnating. The few different riffs here all work well together in creating a sombre atmosphere, which is typical for this band.

As with some of the other split releases, Crimson Wine is not exactly representative of Sargeist's sound and is not recommended as a starting point for anyone that is new to the band. It is not even essential for longtime fans, as it is fairly average for a Sargeist song. Still, it is solid and certainly not a throw-away track. Pick it up if you get the chance, but do not go to great lengths to track it down.
 
(20 Oct. 2011)

 
 

Released in November 2011, this 7" E.P. is somewhat of a curiosity. It is not that the material is not solid, for it is. However, the two songs presented here do not really fit the concept of Sargeist. It is with this realization that one begins to look back at Let the Devil In and notice that something had changed since the old days. The grim feeling seems to have been replaced with more uplifting melodies that betray almost a sense of optimism. This is more pronounced on Lair of Necromancy, as the only things dark and evil about this E.P. are the song titles and the imagery.

The music fits the same general style as before, with a lot of fast drumming and tremolo riffs hovering about, yet the feeling is off. Melody is nothing new for Sargeist, yet it was always built upon a foundation of raw and hateful Black Metal. This time around, it seems as if something has been lost. Perhaps it came as a result of Shatraug injecting more of the original Sargeist atmosphere into his primary band, Horna, leaving him with no real idea of what to do with his most well-known side project. Either way, this material sounds far too happy and upbeat and, sad as it is to say, comes as a real disappointment. No amount of underground production or cult aesthetics can change the fact that this music does not convey even the tiniest amount of darkness, whatsoever.

If you are a die-hard Sargeist fan, you may want to sit this one out. The material is too bright and inconsistent to have been released under the Sargeist name and would have been better suited for something else. Disregard Lair of Necromancy and, maybe, go back and reevaluate Let the Devil In. If you want the type of hate-filled, raw and evil Black Metal that was found on the band's first two full-lengths, look to Horna, instead. If you seek more of the mournful vibe that was sometimes present, give a listen to Shatraug's other project, Mortualia.
 
(8 July 2012)

 
 

Based purely on arrangement and composition, Let the Devil In may have been Sargeist's best put-together effort. Yet after repeated listens, it became more and more clear that the atmosphere just lacked the darkness and evil feeling of the band's earlier works. In fact, several of the melodies were uncharacteristically upbeat and inappropriate. With this in mind, some were reasonably cautious of the latest Sargeist release, Feeding the Crawling Shadows, offered up in March 2014.

The first thing one is likely to notice when listening to this album is the atrocious production job, which may have been a conscious rejection of the cleaner sound of the previous outing. Somewhat similar to the most recent Horna record, Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa, the sound here is overly harsh and a little difficult to get used to. The thing is, it is not at all necro or raw in a genuine sense; rather, this is the result of recording in a professional studio and then mixing it to try to get a rough sound. Shatraug is known for writing brilliant guitar melodies and they are all a little harder to focus on, by comparison with Satanic Black Devotion or Disciple of the Heinous Path, due to the odd mix. However, after a couple songs, your ears may very well get used to this in some manner.

As for the music itself, it fails to make as much of an immediate impression as the first two records, most likely as a result of the production. The songwriting is fairly consistent, and clearly identifiable as the work of Shatraug. His trademark style is all over this, quite thankfully. He has a decent amount of longevity in the Black Metal scene and is one of the few people that has done well to keep the black flame burning for all of those years. The title track was a poor choice to start things out, however, and might be worth skipping. "In Charnel Dreams" would have been a much more fitting opener, really embodying the Sargeist. The vocals are a bit of a low spot, at times,  with more frequent use of deeper vocals that do not suit the music as well as Torog's typical style. The epic and mournful riffs would benefit more from the higher-pitched and raspier approach. The music features a good amount of fast tremolo riffs, mixed with the mid-paced stuff that any fan of Horna or Sargeist should be more than familiar with. This variation in composition makes the material a bit more memorable than the latest Horna album, which took repeated listens to really soak in. While this improves upon the missteps of the last record, it could have used a few more of the dreary and bleak melodies such as the ones found in "The Shunned Angel", which hearken back to the band's glory days (ironically, the time when few knew about them). Not every riff on here is as dark as it should be, so the stench of Let the Devil In is not completely gone, but those passages seem more rare this time around.

Feeding the Crawling Shadows seems to be a bit of a retreat from the somewhat accessible sound of Let the Devil In, with the less overtly melodic approach, the more lo-fi production and the lack of so many warm and optimistic riffs. While some may complain, my impression is that this album is a bit more true to the spirit of Sargeist and, while not of the same quality as Satanic Black Devotion or Disciple of the Heinous Path, it is an improvement over the previous recording and a step back in the right direction. This one gets better as it goes along and will impress more with repeated spins. If you were put off by the last release, give this a chance as it may be more of what you were hoping to hear from Sargeist. In particular, "In Charnel Dreams", "The Shunned Angel" and "Inside the Demon's Maze" are worth the time of anyone into Finnish Black Metal. Hopefully, this gets the band back on track and, by the next album, they will have returned to an even darker sound.
 
(15 Apr. 2014)

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