Nine years since their last album “Redimus”, British blackened death metallers Hecate Enthroned return with a new album in the insidiously creative shape of “Virulent Rapture”. Coated in the darkest imposing intensity brought by the Liverpool sextet to date and stretching their persistently vindictive imagination and craft into a compelling sonic ravishing, the band’s fifth full-length is a captivating and fearsome provocation. The Crank Music Group released album has not evolved in sound and adventure as maybe expected in reference to previous releases and also lacks the potency and spark to consistently fire up the passions, but when it does there is little to castigate the eleven track pleasing incitement for.
Featuring new vocalist Elliot Beaver and drummer Gareth Hardy, who joined the band in 2012, “Virulent Rapture” courts the imagination instantly with the menacing demonic entrance of opener ‘Thrones of Shadow’. It makes an initial lingering atmospheric appearance which is eventually pushed away by stern rhythms and scything riffs combining for a subsequent fury of sound and energy. The dual vocal delivery, bestial and harsh alongside a rasping serpentine squall, makes an early impressive statement too within the melodic web cast by the guitars of Nigel Dennen and Andy Milnes aligned to the evocative and fluid keys of Pete White. It is an impacting beginning to the album which without tearing up walls fully engages senses and thoughts, the rhythmic artillery of Hardy virulent bait coring it all.
‘Unchained’ takes over with its own sonic wind of resourceful enterprise and rhythmic antagonism next, the bass of Dylan Hughes an imposing presence within the tempestuous and captivating endeavour of the song. As the first, the track writhes and twists with ideas and textures which only ignite the imagination, and though as mentioned you can debate the evolution shown by the band between releases, it is an enthralling encounter and adventure for most of its attention gripping time.
Both ‘Abyssal March’ and ‘Plagued by Black Death’ underwhelm in comparison to their predecessors, though each provides plenty to intrigue and satisfy an eager emerging appetite. The pair is soon lost in the shadow of the album’s pinnacle, the twin strike of ‘Euphoria’ and the following title track which features Sarah Jezebel Deva. The first of the two has an almost pestilential breath to its crusading drama, rhythmic incitement and sonic adventure an absorbing bordering anthemic enticement whilst its successor expels a predation and intensity which could wither crops and strip paint. The track is a ravenous storm seeped in demonic shadows but one which fluidly evolves into a sirenesque call courtesy of its guest before unleashing another thrilling tsunami of malevolence.
“Virulent Rapture” from this point on is a little mixed, uncaging further impressive savagery and imagination bred onslaughts through the likes of ‘Life’ and ‘To Wield the Hand of Perdition’ whilst tempering them with enjoyable but less impacting and memorable songs such as ‘Of Witchery’ and the ‘Blood Moon’ as well as the closing ‘Paths of Silence’. “Virulent Rapture” is a fine and pleasing return from Hecate Enthroned overall though, a torrent of skill and pleasure which is impossible to dismiss with validity but an encounter unable to light a fire in the belly like other similarly spawned violations.