After signing to Transcending Obscurity Records last year and debuting on the label’s 2020 sampler compilation album, Italy’s Ghostly Aerie Coven still remain a mysterious band shrouded in obscurity. One thing is abundantly clear from listening to Bird Of Prey, is that the band have been dedicated students and disciples of the Finnish black metal sound, sonically and compositionally. On first impressions you could be easily fooled into thinking that you were listening to a Horna, Behexen or Sargeist record. With the prestige associated with Finnish black metal, it is difficult to see where Bird Of Prey fits in amongst the giants of the Finnish scene outside of being a homage or child of significant influence.
The album’s lyrical concept explores many philosophical ideas from various sources, from the great Greek philosophers and Egyptian pre-Christian religion to the teachings of the Buddha. Alongside the esoteric knowledge and questioning, the band also explore the tautological value of symbols through the use of allegory, including the various mysteries of the universe. Packing this much depth into the lyrics is a feat in itself, and can be seen in songs ‘My Tongue Is The Spear Of Longinvs’ and ‘Horus Rising’. However, with that kind of complex and weighty lyrical subject matter, you would be inclined to expect something more atmospheric, contemplative and introspective. The deeper meaning is somewhat lost in the chaotic, raw and ruthlessness of the Finnish black metal style. As black metal becomes significantly more global and the rich diversity and variation in sounds, themes and artistic interpretations, it seems odd that Ghostly Aerie Coven have decided to throw all their eggs in one basket so to speak. Even so, the band has made a considerable and effective effort to deliver on this aesthetic.
The band utilises some interesting melodic features throughout Bird Of Prey, most notably on ‘Ambassadors Of The Storm’ where the latter half of the song has a strangely off kilter optimism to it which adds some contrast and tension to the album. There is a very brief doom section in ‘Horus Rising’ that shifts that varies up the album’s dynamics by venturing into more progressive writing. Despite these glimpses of potential, the songwriting itself, although fine and if you’re looking for standard black metal this will satiate your needs, is ultimately unadventurous. It is inherently frustrating because you can hear the direction the band want to go in and the potential that they have, ‘Giger Enthroned’ is a prime example of this. Unfortunately, some drum parts sound a bit sloppy and rushed, offsetting the riffs, which often ruins what atmosphere that has already been established, making the album’s immersion factor diminish.
Overall, Bird Of Prey isn’t bad, in the negative form of the word, but it definitely suffers with inconsistency and lack of precision. Whilst Ghostly Aerie Coven have achieved their old school Finnish objective, it frustratingly wasn’t executed well enough to stand out and as a result fails to push boundaries or establish anything new or unique.
Bird Of Prey is out now via Vacula Productions.