The brutal sound of LA-based black metal unit Lightning Swords of Death is virtually a soundtrack to hell, so it's no surprise their tracks have shown up in horror films, including the 2009 Stepfather remake, and games like Undead Knights for the PSP. Even their name is born of blood-soaked cinema, being based on the US title for the gory samurai film Baby Cart to Hades (the third film in the epic Lone Wolf and Cub saga). Their style mixes the grim, ritualistic conventions of '90s-era Norwegian black metal with the no-bullshit purity of '80s thrash, carried off with a heavy dose of in-your-face American attitude and a mighty, muscular sound – thanks to a five man lineup and some of black metal's sickest bass lines – in support of lyrical themes ripped from the pages of the Necronomicon and other forbidden lore.
In Baphometic Chaosium (awesome title, by the way, with wicked cover art to match), the second of the band's releases on Metal Blade Records – following the 2010 album The Extra-Dimensional Wound – they bring an almost palpable violence to the game. After a brief apocalyptic intro, they begin blasting away immediately with the title track (be sure to watch the supremely sinister video at the end of this review). That bass line I told you about is especially supreme on this high-tempo cut, complimented by equally punchy bottom-heavy rhythms, soaring, buzzing multi-tracked guitars – which simulate eerie siren-like wails in the climax – and scathing vocals by Farron Loathing (another awesome handle), who alternates between deep, guttural death metal and razor-sharp black metal styles. The same energy infuses “Acid Gate,” which plays out in the middle frequencies with a shitstorm of shrill tremolo picking and tight double-kicks before downshifting to a lurching tempo for the black-mass chanting of the second half.
From this point the album becomes more experimental and ritualistic; a waspish guitar drone gives a horrific ambiance to “Psychic Waters,” a disturbing and atonal piece that ranks among the band's most chilling tracks and one of my personal faves, followed by the free-form instrumental interlude “Cloven Shields,” which begins with dissonant, cavernous sound design and ends on a mysterious, echoing chime. The sound goes massive for “Chained to Decay,” with multi-tracking and colossal reverb in the mode of Dimmu Borgir, but with a rough, abrasive edge and crushing down-tempo doom riffs that are more in the mode of genre pioneers Celtic Frost. An H.P. Lovecraft motif comes into play in “R'Lyeh Wuurm,” which summons the spirit of Slayer but bolts it onto a blackened death metal framework, resulting in the most badass head-banger on the record (try listening to this one without hefting those horns... seriously, you can't do it). More creepy atmospheric effects open “Epicyclarium,” a solid beater that comes close to the tight vibe of “Acid Gate” until a crushing break and segue into blackened death metal, including a demonic wail of agony and a kick/bass combo that'll bust your cranium. The album closes with the awesome “Oaken Chrysalis,” a raw and undiluted old-school black metal track that relentlessly tightens its grip until it's chugging like a terror train, going out with the same surreal drones that kicked off the proceedings.
While a few old-school black metal purists may find LSOD's approach too boisterous and brutal, their approach is a welcome shot in the arm for occult-themed metal, balancing macabre mood with raw aggression and distancing itself from current occult-themed bands who tend to incorporate more death and doom metal elements. Combining their raw, take-no-prisoners approach with a grander, more imposing presentation and theme, Baphometic Chaosium is the band's most impressive work to date.
Speaking of impressive... it's time to buckle up and press play on the band's first-ever music video, featuring the album's opening/title track and some seriously demonic visuals (which are kinda NSFW-ish, just so you know).