Anyone who remembers the tongue-firmly-in-cheek Black Metal band ‘Permafrost’ may already be familiar with ‘Legacy of Emptiness’, a Norwegian 3-man Symphonic Black Metal band comprising of Permafrost founders Eddie Risdal and Kjell-Ivar Aarli, with Øyvind Rosseland joining them on synths.
It’s evident from their latest album, ‘Over The Past’, that this is no ‘Permafrost mk.2’ and it’s a far cry from the debut Legacy of Emptiness album, which was largely reworkings of early and unreleased songs.
Dealing with, in their words, “accidents, cancer and other illnesses”, has inspired an altogether more serious, personal beast this time around. It’s often said that the best material is produced during the most difficult, troubling times and judging by the quality of this release, I’d agree that it certainly rings true here.
The string synth intro of ‘Reminisce’, immediately draws me into the dark, foreboding world the band are presenting, along with a satisfyingly familiar 90s Melodic Black Metal sound that can be likened to Emperor and pre-00s Dimmu Borgir.
Extreme vocals are delivered and with ferocity, yet delivered with careful enunciation to convey the lyrics with absolute clarity, making it a joy to listen to without straining or regularly reaching for the lyrics sheet.
‘Despair’ is hugely melodic, with an almost Gothic / Symphonic Metal tinge to it. The acoustic refrain mid-way through provides a brief lull, softening the mood, even if only for a moment. The track also ends on a gentle acoustic arpeggio.
‘Angelmaker’ begins with a music box and strings intro that leads into the slow, trudging first verse. The pace soon picks up, replacing the Doom-laden atmosphere with blast beats and layered, melodic synth sequences. This track embraces the beauty in the darkness perfectly by encompassing symphonic, melodic Black Metal, grandiose Funeral Doom and epic, soaring lead guitar refrains.
‘Into The Eternal Pits of Nothingness’ features a dark, ferocious opening, whilst soaring guitar solos momentarily lift the song from the gloomy pits before being dragged back down again. It’s a sonic tug-of-war that never feels dominated by any one style throughout, making for an interesting trade-off … but by the end, the nothingness is inevitable.
Narration sets the scene for ‘Drawn by Nightmares’, as doomy vocals dominate the majority of the track, however they appear a little dry and monotonous for my liking and I much prefer the harsh vocals and haunting melodies that accompany these particular sections. Also worth noting are the eerie piano melodies, which wouldn’t be out of place in an 80s Lovecraftian horror film such as ‘Hellraiser’, or the surreal, chilling ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’.
‘There Was A Man’ conjures up memories of a familiar sound, somewhat akin to classic Dimmu Borgir. A wonderful melting pot of the majestic, atmospheric and the ferocious. This is one of the more intricate compositions of the album, with many musical passages developing as if telling their own story, woven together by well-crafted bridges and transitions.
It’s another brilliant intro to kick off ‘Four Hundred Years’. This song refers to the “night of the four hundred years”, a moment in Norway’s history when the country was ruled by foreign kings and is also the inspiration for the cover artwork. This track’s highlight is its epic, symphonic synth composition and relentless, driving pace, juxtaposed again gloomy, doom-laden instrumental passages.
‘Transition’, an instrumental piano and synth interlude, plays into the album’s final track, entitled ‘Evening Star’. Slightly mellower and toning down the gloomy atmosphere, this song leans towards a Blackened Death Metal sound.
According to the band’s Bandcamp page, this album has no specific concept, yet when listening through in its entirety, there appears to be a strong narrative. No song sounds alike and they all have their own identity, which keeps things fresh and interesting, rather than feeling repetitive and characterless. Yet, given their individuality, there is a sense that each track marks a chapter within the album and whether intentional or not, they seem to pull together to form a complete body of work instead of being a disjointed set of individual ideas.
What you get here isn’t exactly groundbreaking or trend-setting, but what is on offer is a solid, well-executed set of songs composed in the true vein of classic Atmospheric / Melodic Black Metal. Reservations about the clean vocals aside, ‘Over The Past’ is expressive, creative and well-composed, with plenty of memorable melodies and riffs to boot.