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Sempiternal Deathreign : The Spooky Gloom

Sempiternal Deathreign have created a Doom Death Milestone. A seminal album any fan has to know.

For a long time, the only names that were mentioned in discussions about Death Doom pioneers were bands from the United States (Winter, Goatlord) and Great Britain (Paradise Lost, Cathedral). However, an obscure scene was particularly boiling during the late 80s / early 90s: the Dutch scene. Many bands from The Netherlands are among the very first in the world to have played Death Doom: Awakening, Delirium, Necro Schizma and Sempiternal Deathreign. Then, many other bands came out of nowhere, joining that core and taking up the torch, but most of them, quite surprisingly, remained very low-profile. This was the case for Castle, Maleficium, Mourning, Mystic Charm, Perpetual Demise, Sad Whisperings, Solstice, Spina Bifida or Stentorian.
Quite a large group, isn’t it? One could wonder how such isolation can be explained? First reason: these Batavian pioneers only had a short lifespan, merely releasing some demos / rehearsals and a single full-length at best … But the same is true for Winter and Goatlord, you'll argue! So, the second reason is at least as important: contracts with very unknown labels which often had a short lifetime as well. The result: this Dutch scene only recently gained the recognition it deserves. Those old releases have become collector’s items and, for a few years now, some labels have begun to re-release them. I'd like to praise the great work the Spanish label Memento Mori has already done in this context: just think of the reissue of Delirium's 'Zzooouhh' and the up-coming reissues of the albums of Mystic Charm, Mourning and Sempiternal Deathreign, no less.

Sempiternal Deathreign have been the very first Dutch Doom band – the project started in 1987 – and 'The Spooky Gloom' was the first Death Doom full-length ever released in the entire world, in 1989, even before the well-known pillars that are 'Into Darkness', 'Lost Paradise' and 'Reflections of the Solstice'. But had this record been a total failure, this little feat would be of small interest. This is not the case, far from it! 'The Spooky Gloom' has tremendous qualities, both in terms of music and inventiveness.

80s Thrash Metal is an essential element in the advent of Death Metal; some fast and sharp, almost epileptic solos à la Slayer reveal that Victor Van Drie and Frank Faase (supported by Remo Van Arnhem as a session drummer) are, in fact, influenced by Thrash. Rather than abyssal growls, the vocals are mad and barbaric grunts that sound as though they were uttered by a vicious butcher having a lot of fun skinning men alive.
The short and savage songs 'Resurrection Cemetery' and 'Unperceptive Life' are uncompromising manifestos of the band’s roots (the latter track also appeared on their quite raw 'Creepshow' demo).

As regards the musical violence in Death Metal, some boundaries had admittedly already been pushed by the seminal works of both Possessed and Death. So, one could blame Sempiternal Deathreign for their lack of brutal technique. But the atmospheres conveyed by their music seem to suggest that the band is not interested in sheer violence. For when it comes to oldschool Death Doom Metal, it’s essentially a matter of spooky moods and gloomy feelings – of creatures rising from the dead to curse the miserable human beings, of terrifying entities from outer space turning our planet into Armaggedon… establishing the Sempiternal Deathreign! The band’s name tells it all, as does the coverart taken from the work of Gustave Doré. And those images come to you very vividly when listening to their often long compositions which skilfully combine the gory side of Death Metal and the ominous side of Doom Metal. The piano part opening the central track 'Devestating Empire Towards Humanity' is particularly striking, it releases a feel of imminent disaster, and the massive riff that follows makes you think of evil abominations creeping towards you. The next song, 'Dying Day', is a perfect expression of painful decomposition slowly leading to death.
The lyrics stick to the spirit of the song which arguably started the whole scene, the famous self-titled track by Black Sabbath. Short yet precise descriptions are combined with a rich musical substrate in order to create a climax of horror and deadly omens in the vein of the TV serials “Tales from the Crypt” and “Crypt of Terror”.

Sempiternal Deathreign and their 'Spooky Gloom' are an early achievement in the Death Doom genre which is almost unique in the late 80s (with the notable exception of the demos of Winter, Necro Schizma and Goatlord). However, they've stayed out of the limelight for a long time, as is the case with the whole Dutch Doom scene (with the exception of some re-editions that have recently seen the light of day). Therefore, their recent public recognition is well-deserved.

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Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Creep-O-Rama
2. Resurrection Cemetery
3. Devestating Empire Towards Humanity
4. Dying Day
5. Unperceptive Life
6. The Spooky Gloom

Duration : Approx. 35 minutes

Visit the Sempiternal Deathreign bandpage.

Reviewed on 2012-09-24 by Manu Buck
Aesthetic Death
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