2014 seems quite long ago, but that was when the very enjoyable Hidden Manna was released. I really, really liked that record, and it even made my end of year list for that year. Over five years later, the band have now returned with Ordo Naturalis, and it seems they have been busy.
Spread out over a sprawling 67 minutes, this is an album that takes you on a journey. The band have taken what worked so very well on their debut album and expanded and refined it. Ordo Naturalis is an album that’s been worth the wait.
The band have a different bassist/vocalist on this album, although tragically he died shortly after the album’s completion. His blackened screams are perfect for the music, and this contribution to the songs from his bass is notable. Hopefully the album stands as a fitting tribute. The drummer of Salvaticus also adds vocals here and there, particularly on the final song, (a Dawn cover, which was recorded later), where he provides lead vocals.
An album of emotion, there’s a dynamic, emotive structure to this music that finds expression in all aspects of the songs. Whether this is anger at the state of modern life, or beautiful awe at the natural world. Frequently, the two come in conflict, and in real life the latter suffers because of the former, which the music expresses admirably. This is clearly a subject that the band feel passionate about, and the album reflects this in a very affecting and effective way.
The songs are composed with intelligence and skill. The dynamic, rich, multifaceted nature of unfettered black metal is explored well, allowing the band to incorporate all manner of different ideas and creative flourishes. Aspects of second wave, modern, progressive, and post-black metal are explored, as well as folk elements here and there, and classical influences in some of the guitars, melodies, and structuring. It’s all wrapped up in an atmospheric black metal framework, one which draws from all of these and more to produce songs that are at home raging with extreme violence, indulging in calm introspection, or anything in between.
A textured, gorgeously layered album, the band’s talent and ambition has flourished nicely since Hidden Manna. Across the album we get the sort of songs you would expect to hear based on their past work, but also some unexpected tracks, like the folky, acoustic-based Refuge, or the Dawn cover that ends the album. Whatever they get up to, Ordo Naturalis is a superb work of blackened art, and they should be very, very happy with what they have produced here.
Hmm, I strongly suspect this album will also end up gracing 2019’s end of year list too.