This is Symphonic Black Metal that has a strong orchestral component and Classical influences. It has a cinematic feel to it in places and the band do everything they can to foster a real sense of immersion in the soundscapes that they create.
It’s easy to throw words such as majesty, grandeur and epic at Diabolus Arcanium, and all of those words are indeed fitting descriptors for their take on Black Metal. This is larger-than-life music that won’t be to everyone’s taste for that reason alone.
Symphonic Black Metal always takes me back to the mid/late 90s, it just can’t be helped. A lot of people seem to turn their noses up at the more orchestral/symphonic side of things that some Black Metal bands embrace, and to me this is a real shame. Also, with everyone seemingly concentrating on being as evil, cvlt and grim as possible these days, it’s actually relatively rare to find a band who play this style, especially when they play it well like on Path of Ascension.
The singer’s Black Metal shriek is akin to a snarling beast and he takes a traditional approach to his performance, once again reminding me of 90s Black Metal.
The orchestral sounds are varied and clever enough to never become boring, unnecessary or too overbearing. They’re written with just the right balance in mind and enhance the core of the songs while at the same time being essential to their existence. Some keyboard-enhanced bands sound like the Symphonic aspect of their music is simply tacked on as an afterthought, whereas on Path of Ascension it sounds integral and complete.
One of the main reasons it sounds so good, apart from the writing and arrangement, is it actually sounds like a full orchestra playing, rather than just some guy with a keyboard. The fact that it actually is just a guy with a keyboard is quite shocking, that’s how well-done this is.
Ultimately, this is still Black Metal, so there’s a darkened, Blackened core to the band and they keep an aggressive bite to things, even with the omnipresent orchestration. The songs walk a fine line between Blackened barbarity and Classical magnificence.
Diabolus Arcanium have produced an impressive album that’s an engaging and enjoyable listen. The songs hold the attention and ultimately they make you just want to bounce along to them, blast beats or not. And who can say fairer than that?