Spanish dark metallers Totengott seem to be experiencing what Johnny Thunders and David Johansen might have called an ‘identity crisis’; Not content with applying a woolly moniker like ‘dark metal’ to themselves, they then spend the first half of this four track album struggling to come to terms with what that actually means…

Opener Ceremony I, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi has a title that suggests the band might inhabit the more grandiouse end of the symphonic black metal scene; however the reality is the sort of thing Black Sabbath might have used as a (very long) intro tape around the time of the Headless Cross album. As an exercise in defying expectation this works perfectly, but when the band follow this up with the grinding Ceremony II, The Way of Sin, which sounds like a well-produced cross-fertilisation of Napalm Death and Benediction, the listener is left feeling a tad confused.

The second half of the album is comprised of two tracks weighing in at over thirty five minutes in length between them. The first, The Spell, takes a while to get going – the first three minutes sounding like something whacky and experimental off of a Blut Aus Nord record – but when it hits a titanic groove at around the four minute mark things start to make more sense. Think the bowel-quaking heaviness of Trypticon, or a more polite Vallenfyre, and you’re getting close. The sound always seems to carry some deeply-embedded crust undertones too, which stops things from getting too progressive; this would like to be oil-encrusted filth of the dirtiest kind, and, although the crisp production job lacks the requisite filth under the fingernails, it’s actually pretty beguiling.

The track loses it’s way a little in the mid section, heading back towards the ‘intro tape’ atmospherics of the first track before re-finding that colossal groove that the band used earlier. If you think a slightly more musical Conan might be something you’d dig, you should probably check this out.

Totengott bring a close to matters with another ponderous, black metal-inspired title – Doppelganger II, The Abyss – and a song that more or less follows the same blueprint as it’s immediate predecessor, save for a slightly angrier vocal approach from vocalist Chou, who declaims in the classic fashion of the vintage versions of Darren White and Nick Holmes.

So maybe a little variation might be needed to really pick things up, but overall there’s not really a lot to grumble about here; Totengott might be a bit confused about who’s path ultimately they’d like to follow, but they are making a pretty fulsome racket for us to enjoy whilst they make their minds up.

The Abyss will be released by Xtreem Music on April 16th.