Crest of Darkness: 'In the Presence of Death' – CD Review



Although we've been hearing new music from a lot of black metal bands lately, including highly influential Norwegian metallers Darkthrone (check out our review of their new album The Underground Resistance), who were instrumental in the genre's formation, many of those bands have made radical changes to their sound in terms of production, themes and/or musical styles. Only a few bands continue to carry the old-school banner, but my first listen to Crest of Darkness led me to believe they were among that troop. Formed in 1993 by Ingar Amlien (formerly of the prog-metal band Conception), CoD are less widely known than iconic genre names like Emperor, Darkthrone, Burzum or Mayhem, and they're not as prolific as many of their peers, with only six albums released across their twenty-year history, but they've nevertheless continued to soldier on through the blackness with many of the genre's core themes intact.
That's not to say they haven't made some major tweaks to their own style; with the release of their third record The Ogress in 1999, the band was already incorporating gothic elements into the mix, but they added more death/thrash-driven elements with the follow-up, Project Regeneration. The resulting fusion evolved into a style reminiscent of Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir, though with more caustic rhythms and riffs. While further changes to the band's lineup resulted in more shifts in style and tone, the band has been a quartet since their 2007 release Give Us the Power to Do Your Evil – Amlien on lead vocals and bass, guitarists Rebo & Kjell Arne Hubred (who has since left the band, replaced by Jan Fredrik Solheim), and Kjetil Hektoen at the drumkit.
After a short but creepy synth intro, the album kicks off with the ferocious title track, painting a wide canvas with darkly cinematic colors, laying massive, echoing chords over thick layers of tremolo riffs and double-kick beats, with Amlien's voice maintaining a tense, mid-range black metal snarl. From here the pattern stays pretty consistent, though tracks like “Demon Child“ (see the video below) ramp up the intensity with more tempo change-ups and some ghoulish vocal modulations, and “The Priest From Hell“ introduces some sharp, thrashy riffs. Guitar solos are minimal, but when they do arrive they add a nice '80s touch, and usually come soaked with haunting reverb. 
The sick and sleazy riff that drives “Welcome To My Funeral“ makes it one of the most memorable on the album, and the following cut “Womb Of The Wolf“ seems to transform the same motif into a blackened death metal burnout; the intense “Vampire Dreams“ matches its stomping riff with a multi-tracked vocal chant that makes it especially spooky. The mood is more brooding in “From The Dead,” but that song gets a shot of urgent energy from Hektoen's crazed blastbeats. The closing track “The Day Before She Died“ is a hybrid of doom and black metal, pairing long, deep chords with a frantic, repeating rhythm of double-kicks and crash cymbals before settling into an unexpected but very cool acoustic coda.
If you dig dark atmospheric metal with themes torn from the pages of Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible, carried on a wave of tremolo riffs, pitch-black chords and pummeling blastbeats, then In the Presence of Death will bring a wicked grin to your corpse-painted face. While it's not breaking any new ground in a 20-year-old genre, it's handled with technical skill and ferocious energy... and let's face it, sometimes I'm just in the mood to hear a band spewing black flames of evil. Most times, actually. But never mind my weirdness; all you need to know about this band's brutal attack is concentrated in the track “Demon Child,” which you can see and hear them perform in the clip below.