There’s no doubt that raw black metal is going through a surge of popularity right now, with bands like Old Nick and Lamp of Murmuur making huge waves in the underground. When checking through the new black metal releases on Bandcamp, odds are that a short clickventure will see you land on something that takes heavy inspiration from early Emperor, Darkthrone, and Les Legions Noire. And increasingly, odds are that it’ll be decent, too. Bands like Celestial Sword, Despondent Moon, and Spear of Teuta may not be getting as much attention as those mentioned at the start of the article, but they’re all contributing to a subgenre which is becoming increasingly interesting, both in quality and variety.
Cultum Draculesti should be added to that list of names making waves within raw black metal circles. Formerly known as Spinster City, the duo (formerly a solo project) already have one excellent album to their name in 2021. But whilst that album, Antigone The Martyr, leant into the punkier side of raw black metal, the new self-titled album could almost be described as vampiric black metal. There’s plenty of stripped-down riffs, echoing vocals, and some carefully placed synth flourishes – all hallmarks of vampiric black metal. But what really makes the album stand out, regardless of sub-genre, is the sheer atmosphere and aura of intent it conjures. This is music of the dead of night, of arcane knowledge and forbidden rituals, claws raised to the moon in worship of darkness. Lyrically and thematically, it may take heavy inspiration from Vlad II Dracul (otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler, the real-life inspiration for Dracula), but it has an emotional heft and sense of catharsis that wouldn’t be expected from a record with such inspiration. I never expected an album so musically reminiscent of early Emperor to be so life-affirming, but that’s just what Cultum Draculesti is.
It’s almost ridiculous just how powerful Cultum Draculesti is, especially arriving so soon after Antigone The Martyr. The constant sense of forward-motion throughout the album is captivating and energising. Picking out highlights would be a fool’s game – the album is littered with excellent riffs and small flourishes that any band would be proud of. And when taken as a whole, it’s clear that Cultum Draculesti is the kind of release that could be seen as a statement, making it clear that the duo deserve to be talked about in the same way as the bands mentioned in the opening paragraph of this review. It’s all the more notable for the way that it never feels like an exercise in trve kvlt orthodoxy, which is one of the biggest failings of most raw black metal bands – the duo have created something remarkably diverse in a style that is not usually known for being so adventurous. As such, Cultum Draculesti is one of the best black metal releases of the year thus far, possessed of raw power and invigorating variety that is hard to deny.
Cultum Draculesti is out on 21st May via Moreau and will be available here.
Words: Stuart Wain