Over the past 18 years – and certainly in the decade since the release of their brutal debut album, ‘Ashes of Purification’ – Merrimack have been slowly building a reputation as one of the forerunners of the French black metal movement and have drawn comparison, not unfairly, with the likes of Marduk and Gorgoroth.
This, the Parisian quartet’s fourth album (and their first for pioneering German label AFM), is very much a modern, progressive slice of BM, veering more towards the doom, sludge end of the genre than the thrash end (most of the tracks – despite prodigious use of blastbeats – clock in at around the 70 bpm speed).
The opening couplet of (the appropriately titled) ‘Intro’ – built on the hellish, spine-tingling vocals of Vestal (and we very much doubt he’s a virgin, given the evil incantations he evokes on this opus) – and ‘Arousing’, with its brutal double riff from Perversifier and A.K. over the brutally dark rhythms of Blastum’s understated but highly effective drum patterns (ably complemented throughout by an impressive counterpointing performance from bassist Daethorn), both set the scene for what is to come: dark,dense, intense, doom-laden metal of the blackest kind.
There are some moments of light relief – the eastern, almost Byzantine acoustic outro to ‘Hypophanie’ and the winding, atmospheric intro to ‘Worms’, the latter in itself a wonderful example of what the entire album is all about, with its superb use of light and shade, pummelling riffs and outrageously satanic vocals.
Other highlights include the vicious beatdown of ‘Gospel’ and the epic closer ‘Liminal’.
Not a ground-breaking black metal classic (well, maybe not yet), but there is enough progression here to symbolize the genre moving on to the next level of its evolution.
A dark 7.5/10.
‘The Acausal Mass’ is released on AFM Records on Friday June 22nd.