‘Godless Prayers’ is one of those albums that grabs you right from the off. Eschewing any form of intro, ‘A Breath From The Chasm Within’ launches straight into raw, cascading melodies like something from Anaal Nathrakh’s first demo, propelled along urgently by clattering drums and bolstered by mournful-yet vital, folk-tinged riffs that push onwards as if through lashing rain. It has a strong flavour of Sargeist to it, and the rasped vocals are incredibly raw and tinny, serving to build atmosphere whilst the cascading and ascerbic riffs take centre stage. A chunky, mid-paced groove thrown in amongst the melodic chaos completes the winning formula that is repeated throughout the album.
It’s a focussed listen rather than a one trick pony however, and incredibly catchy and engaging to boot. Like Nathrakh, Daemonlord is a two-man project consisting of a vocalist and an instrumentalist, and the album sounds entirely stripped-down and immediate as a result. Song after song, dense, beautifully raw riffs tumble forth at ferocious speed, flowing effortlessly into crunchy half-time grooves and powerful double bass pedal-gallops. The songs have a tremendous drive and momentum to them, hurdling everything in their path and mixing clinical precision with grimy-and-chaotic grinding in the Behexen vein.
The songwriting is simple, unpretentious and utterly effective, bringing together the melancholy chaos of Horna and Sargeist and the raw melody of the early Mayhem and Dark Funeral albums along with some blistering Melechesh riffage and the odd chugging, traditional heavy metal groove. That description accurately describes nearly every song on the album, but whilst the songs might sound very similar on paper, in practice they all manage to sound unique from one another and hold the attention in a vice-like grip from beginning to end.
There’s a fluid and relentless energy that keeps things fresh and engaging throughout, and at the same time the album is not short on atmosphere, managing to find some strangely agreeable middle-ground between traditional freezing, Nordic BM and that beguiling, sweltering occult feel of the classic 90s Mediterranean scene. There are a few curveball songs thrown in, such as the gloomy and plodding ‘Antarctica’ with its’ Bewitched-meets-DSBM feel, and ‘Cut The Withered Flower’, a classic, laid back Hellenic heavy metal number that could easily be a lost track from a mid-90s Rotting Christ album. I tend to reference Rotting Christ a lot, but the resemblance here is uncanny: the rousing mid-tempo stride and harmonised guitar-flourishes; the reedy and ethereal wisps of synth and the recurring double-thumps of some massive, ancient drum, all sitting slap-bang in the middle of the album like a little oasis of nostalgic calm encircled by a raging storm.
If the downside of solo-instrumentalist black metal projects is the proliferation of shitty, angst-ridden bedroom BM, then the upside is the purity of vision that the medium allows. ‘Godless Prayers’ is nothing particularly original, but it is a raw-as-hell yet meticulously crafted album full of ancient atmosphere, blazing melodies and razor-sharp hooks. Bonus points too for the gloomy, hand-painted stygian artwork. A gem.