Review / Petrine Cross – Centuries Of August

When it comes to raw, depressive-suicidal black metal (DSBM), the genre hasn’t really felt like it’s had many stand-out records since the days when the likes of Xasthur were at their most prolific. That’s not to say that there’s been nothing worthwhile released in the style since, though. Rather, their influence has been felt across the underground, and whilst lots of bands and records have taken that ultra-raw, all-consuming violent atmospheric sound and attempted to make it their own, there are few who have put across the same sense of personality as Malefic did on Subliminal Genocide and Nocturnal Poisoning (at which point, step forward Velvet Cocoon for arguably coming closest).

After releasing a demo and several stand-alone tracks though, it feels like Petrine Cross may, in Centuries of August, have released a record to change that dynamic. The influence of the aforementioned bands is clear throughout, especially in how there’s a careful balance of riffs and the use of raw production as texture, where the two compliment one another. Too often raw black metal of any variety falls into the trap of thinking that sounding raw is sufficient in itself, but Petrine Cross display strong songwriting throughout, with several of the riffs and melodies throughout Centuries of August being among the most memorable I’ve heard in this subgenre (just check out the slower sections of ‘The Breezes Brought Dejected Lutes’ for a prime example).

What matters most with this style of DSBM though is the atmosphere, and the emotional force the record puts across. As such, Centuries of August ranks among the best of the style. A lifetime of hurt and misery seeps from these five songs, with the vocals especially putting across a profound sense of pain. Each riff seems like it is dragging itself forward, broken yet defiant, standing as strong as it can in the face of a world that wants nothing more than for it to fall and never get back up again. The sheer venom and spite contained on Centuries of August is incredible. Whilst such feelings can tend to be used as an excuse for punching-down in black metal, here it feels very much like a case of using your pain and hate to keep you going, one day at a time.

It’s that which helps Petrine Cross stand out from the crowd. Whereas Xasthur and so many others seemed to revel in their misery and suicidal ideations, and Velvet Cocoon delighted in spreading absurdities, Centuries of August is an exercise in music as a means of survival. That the lyrics have been intentionally forgotten speaks to that feeling – that this is a howl of rage capturing a moment simultaneously temporary and eternal, something both unique and universal. To describe it as cathartic is to undersell just what Centuries of August achieves. This is an incredible record, and it should be considered among the best black metal releases of the year.

Centuries of August is out via Panurus Productions on 4th December and can be ordered here.

Words: Stuart Wain

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