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Album Review: RUÏM Black Royal Spiritism – I – O Sino da Igreja

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Ruïm’s brutal yet majestic debut, Black Royal Spiritism – I – O Sino da Igreja, speaks with the authority of a musical giant. In fact, if you know even a little bit about the history of metal, you will instantly recognize this triumph as the sublime art of one the genre’s top guitarists and composers — the ex-Mayhem legend RuneBlasphemerEriksen. The young yet exceptional French-born drummer CésarCSRVesvre serves as Blasphemer’s lone partner in Ruïm.

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A ceaseless perfectionist, Blasphemer is regarded by many as the genius who saved The True Mayhem — a band that had lost Dead; recorded the definitive black metal record, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas; then suffered the death of Euronymous. When Blasphemer entered the fold in late 1994 upon the invitation of Hellhammer, with whom he had collaborated earlier, he was just a teen. Yet, he basically wrote all of the group’s music. After winning a Spellemann / “Norwegian Grammy” for Ordo ad Chao (2007), Blasphemer left the band. Decades after it was recorded, Blasphemer eventually received a long-lost tape of his ’98/’99 Mayhem-era riffs. Inspired by this material, he formed Ruïm in 2020. Black Royal Spiritism – I – O Sino da Igreja is both a continuation of Blasphemer’s historic achievements with Mayhem and an attempt to surpass them or, at least, to come full circle on a broader level of a spiral path.

Despite the nostalgia it evokes, Black Royal Spiritism – I – O Sino da Igreja explores uncharted artistic territories and is far too inventive to process at once. This is because visionary Blasphemer strives to create albums that are different from their predecessors, excluding cases like his releases with Aura Noir. Thus, it will be a thrill to hear what the next two installments in the trilogy kicked off by Black Royal Spiritism – I – O Sino da Igreja will bring. We can expect that they will also be steeped in Brazilian witchcraft and Umbanda tradition. These components have added yet another autobiographical dimension to the deeply personal and intensely meaningful record at hand by reflecting Blasphemer’s spiritual journey. The highly unique themes have certainly helped birth a new kind of fiery darkness that is both the height of black metal and feels alien to it.

Black Royal Spiritism is supremely confident, menacing, entrancing, and overpowering. Blasphemer’s riffs on this scorching offering confirm that he still slays with an expert swordsman’s dexterity. Aggressive as Black Royal Spiritism proves, it does, in fact, feel very regal and drips with a certain velvet quality. At times, it will give you out-of-body sensations. Musically, Blasphemer makes countless mesmerizing choices that magnify the album’s supernatural aura. Blasphemer exercises great restraint, which makes his work all the more lethal: the exacting maestro often deftly creeps in for the kill, which he pulls off with perfect precision. Ambient passages give way to savage assaults for brilliantly ordered chaos. CSR’s drums perfectly suit Blasphemer’s intentions. There isn’t a weak moment on Black Royal Spiritism.

Blasphemer has lived in Portugal for the past 20 years. Therefore, he penned the haunting lyrics to this album in both Portuguese and English. The Norwegian language makes a grand appearance on the fifth track “Evig Dissonans” a wonderful slice of madness that stands out as different in terms of its content and more primitive mood. One could even say that it feels like a bit of a flashback. Although Blasphemer’s vocals are mostly harsh, he incorporates some clean vocals as well, which may be whispered, intoned with chant-like gravity, uttered like declarations, etc. The clean additions often feel like carefully placed jewels. Blasphemer actually invited ex-Absu’s Proscriptor McGovern to lend his voice to “Fall of Seraphs,” which is, of course, a reinterpretation of the song by the same name from the classic Mayhem EP Wolf’s Lair Abyss (1997). Proscriptor’s performance will rip the flesh right off your back. The fact that Blasphemer has managed to make a version that is, in my view, even better than the beloved original seems like an impossible feat.

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Ultimately, Black Royal Spiritism is a journey that feels both cleansing and utterly damning. Blasphemer’s little touches of laughter are sure to echo in your sleep. This album demonstrates that devilish refinement, finesse, and the urge to transcend boundaries lead to the most effective black metal. Far above the black metal hordes, the great riff-lord Blasphemer is in a league of his own. Yet, the reason why this record is so important is because it’s an experience that just might rattle you to the core: Blasphemer pours every ounce of himself into this deadly serious masterpiece. Once you manage to unlock the mental door allowing access into the formidable realm of Black Royal Spiritism, its authenticity is capable of moving you to tears.

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