The Supreme Force of Eternity

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At a time -- the late '90s -- when the Gothenburg scene's stock rock & roll song structures and melodic overkill seemed to point to the only possible path for death metal's future, Runemagick's sudden emergence as champions of the genre's baser, rougher (more innocent, if you will) origins in '80s thrash and black metal seemed an absolute shock to the system -- but a shock that has obviously had a lasting effect, given the still thriving (if ever more segmented) scene's subsequent legions of acts looking proudly backwards, as often as forward, for inspiration. Of course Runemagick were hardly alone in motivating this about-face, but it's easy to single them out because they've rarely wavered from that original purpose since unleashing this 1998 debut, The Supreme Force of Eternity. Track one, "At the Horizons End," is the album's longest at eight minutes, and it encapsulates most every aspect of Runemagick's sound. It's filled with everything from thrash-like speed bursts to dread-slow doom chords, with every riffing tempo in between, as well as distinctive guitar harmonies and minor-key melodic lines -- topped at all times with guttural death metal vocals. These are, for the most part, unintelligible, of course, but lyrics are helpfully provided should one actually be curious about what sort of apocalyptic fantasies the band is describing in album standouts like "When Death is the Key," "Curse of the Dark Rune," and "Nocturnal Creation." It should be noted, however, that, like so many heavy metal bands, Runemagick's innate disdain for commercial conventions inevitably results in many of their songs lacking an easily recognizable identity. Guilty parties such as "The Black Wall" and the title track abandon riffs, switch speeds, and change tack without warning, never to find their way back again, while "For You, My Death" actually feels only half-finished as it starts to fade to silence. In other words, sticklers for more traditional and disciplined songcraft should beware, but those in search of jarring sonic juxtapositions and a great excuse for a little testosterone-fueled headbanging will have a total field day here.

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