It takes Aussie black metal one man band Menelyagor (here operating under the moniker Artanor) a couple of tracks to get into his stride on new album In Servitude of Darkness; Both Consumed by Time and From The Roaring Fire are serviceable slabs of classic, in your face black metal, nothing more nothing less – but they don’t really set the pulse racing or get the juices flowing.

At this point you’re going about your business not exactly unimpressed, but also not exactly held in thrall by the album’s tales of dark deeds and necromantic skullduggery. But then… BOOM! Third track A Reminder of Past Glory kicks in and we’re off, off on the rest of the album’s journey that packs a hell of a lot of punch into it’s grooves, not to mention some utterly rousing, memorable black metal into the bargain.

That third track brings to mind madcap Brits Bal Sagoth at their turn-of-the-century peak, but for once with a black metal album released in 2023 we’re not really reflecting on what names from the past are dredged up by the listening process. Rather, Menelyagor conjures themes and moods that are evocative of times past without simply recycling them, giving this album a freshness often lacking in this genre of late. Both Sons of The Rock and First Born Minion do this beautifully, but it’s perhaps the album’s final track, the slightly doomier Dependent Echoes of Misery, where things come together best and Artanor make the most glorious, strident sense.

As ever when a press release alerts me to the presence of ‘a story’ or ‘a concept’ lurking within an album’s grooves my first response is ‘but do the tracks stand up on their own?’ and the answer here is a resounding YES. By all means buy into the story being told if you want to but in terms of sheer listening enjoyment it isn’t necessary as the music here does all the storytelling you really need. This is a very, very enjoyable slab of straight-down-the-line black metal indeed.

In Servitude of Darkness releases on July 27th.