Hailing from the waterlogged marshes of The Fens, UK black metal yob The Infernal Sea have spent the last several years enjoying the spoils of a blossoming career and dotting following. Equally the product of their genre founding influences and the burgeoning UKBM scene in which they represent, the group become ambassadors of the national black metal scene following the release of their 2016 debut The Great Mortality. A record documenting the blighting horrors of the plague and the atrocities man inflicted on each other in order to survive (Don’t dwell on it), the album allowed the band to climb the rungs of the ladder whilst showcasing to many that you need not travel to the windswept Scandinavian north to find some authentically great black metal in vein of the founding fathers.
Four years on from that release and a lot has changed. The UKBM scene has swelled exponentially, and as a result, many eyes have shifted from The Infernal Sea onto the more active acts currently making waves. In response, the group are back with Negotium Crucis, their respective second release via Apocalyptic Witchcraft. Narrating the depravity, sadism and violence of the Knights Templar of old, Negotium Crucis once again see’s the band return to the dialogical transgressions of the middle ages in a savage fashion that reinstates their importance to the scene they introduced many to.
Wasting no time whatsoever, ‘Destruction Of Shum’ instantly establishes the tone and sound of Negotium Crucis. Horridly grim and violent in a way that’s only possible with black metal, The Infernal Sea instantly manifest the engulfing medieval atmosphere that clouds their work, with the track’s blizzard like tempo, frenzied fretwork and callous gang dungeon wails viscerally animating the historic violence the record documents. It also showcases the group’s powerful penchant for incorporating more melodic groove into their take on time-honoured traditional black metal, something proven fantastically with the following ‘Befallen Order’. Potentially the best offering from this release, the track’s Satyricon like blackened riffage breaks down into full black n’ roll mayhem, ultimately cumulating into hellbent soloing that’s subtly reminiscent of the work of early Kvelertak. For a track documenting the merciless genocide of the past via black metal malevolence, it’s pure blackened amusement.
Much like The Great Mortality, the primary appeal of this record comes with The Infernal Sea’s subtle dynamism. Whilst the record is easily comparable to the masters of the genre and refuses to stray into the convoluted genre experimentation of their peers, the band’s sensibilities of playing host of frostbitten groove, doom and even closed-fist hardcore are all evident here. ‘God Wills It’ see’s the band dialling back the tempo to bludgeoning effect, and with it’s 50. calibre burst fire blast-beats, lacerating melo-death riffs and flayed vocals, ‘Devoid Of Fear’ is pure sadistic musical talent that demonstrates the power black metal can play host to when harnessed with other tropes of different corners of extreme music. This also plays into the somewhat accessible nature of The Infernal Sea. Black metal has long been associated with being craft reserved for only those willing to experience music in it’s most heinous form, but Negotium Crucis is strikingly easy to ingest.
The only criticism one could have with this record is that with it’s near hour long runtime, Negotium Crucis does occasionally slip into more pedestrian waters. This is particularly noticeable in the third chapter of the record, following the archaic murderous hedonism of the title track, where despite ruminations of the work of classic Mayhem are enjoyed, many non black metal purist may lose focus. Granted, ‘Into The Unknown’s’ savage brawling riffs will immediately ensnare the attention of anyone, but for some, conciseness may be desired.
Negotium Crucis doesn’t play into the profound genre dynamism associated with their some of their peers, but with it’s devilish habit of assimilating groove, melodics and stampeding black n’ roll, it does showcase how potent traditional black metal can be when adjusted for the modern age. Be it for the band’s career of a young fan’s introduction to the genre, Negotium Crucis is set to be an important record for many.
Negotium Crucis is out now via Apocalyptic Witchcraft. Purchase the record here.