Denizens of the London night Formicarius are causing quite a stir in their local (by which I mean the English) scene. Avowed traditionalists, the band’s mission statement is to take back the black metal throne from foreign interlopers. The Crown, they believe, belongs on an English head.
As an Englishman I’m bound to agree, although I don’t necessarily believe that Formicarius are the chosen ones. Black Mass Ritual is their debut album, and it has a wealth of black metal tradition steeped in its eight songs. The band sensibly open with their most well-known track, Lake of the Dead, which is uptempo and melodic. However deeper treasures are found on further inspection.
Although the band clearly see (very) early Cradle of Filth as a reference point, they are eminently better at this stage in their career than were Cof. They are more accomplished musicians firstly, that skill taking the edge from the savagery in the music that is clearly intended. So, although the fast and heavy tracks are fun to listen to, they don’t arrest the listener as much as, say, Under Darkness. The song is still very heavy, and very much like early Cradle of Filth, but somehow more considered, more layered.
What the band have done very well is maintained their English identity. Despite being grouped by some with names like Emperor and Dimmu Borgir, the band retain an Englishess to their sound which is almost intangible yet still most evident. Morath’s gothic keyboard lines – very reminiscent of CoF’s Ben Ryan on Where the Gods Go to Die – are perhaps the thing most responsible for this feeling, as is the band’s occasional but likeable lapse into Maidenesque galloping.
With a resurgent Akercocke leading the charge for British black metal it might be a while before Formicarius can claim what they see as rightfully theirs. But if they can fill that time with music as good as some of that produced here, it will be time well spent.
Black Mass Ritual is out now.