Requiem of the Apocalypse

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Countless Scandinavian metal bands mix and match elements of both speedy death-thrash and slow-paced death-doom, but few do it as consistently and successfully as Sweden's ridiculously prolific Runemagick. Maybe they're still trying to make up for time lost at the beginning of their career (which took over eight years to really get underway), because not only is Requiem of the Apocalypse the band's fourth album in almost as many years, it's one of two released in 2002 alone. Thankfully, this unusually high release frequency doesn't seem to affect the band's quality standards, nor their proclivity for giving fans their money's worth by packing a whopping 13 tracks into this album's hour-plus running time. Indeed, as exemplified by stunning numbers like "Temple of Skin," "Beyond Life," and "Funeral Caravan," Runemagick excel at combining the aforementioned thrash and doom, slow and fast, patient and frenetic, with startlingly inventiveness; and in guitarists Niklas Rudolfsson and Fredrik Johnsson, they have a two-pronged human riff machine of dazzling proportions. Whether injecting surprisingly musical solos into the epic "On Chariots to Hades," forging devilishly tight harmonies into the wicked "Dawn of the Lava Aeon," or firing off sharp-toothed flurries during "Fields of No Life," it appears they can do no wrong; and it's arguably only on the eight-minute "Memorandum Melancholia" that everything gets dragged on a bit too long. Elsewhere, the baleful percussion and eerie chant-vocals of "The Secret Alliance" recalls original masters Black Sabbath's eponymous masterpiece, and the three instrumental interludes punctuating the album (highlighted by the awesomely frightening "Bells of Death") elicit memories of Sweden's own homegrown doom legends Candlemass. More importantly, through it all, Runemagick find an admirable balance of songwriting, aggression, and style that makes Requiem of the Apocalypse instantly enjoyable where most extreme metal albums take weeks to properly sink in -- a flat-out winner! [Certain international versions of Requiem of the Apocalypse also feature an excellent bonus track entitled "Grand Sabbath Pact."]