RUÏM’s debut album is a dense, atmospheric Black Metal thrill-ride, with many layers and enough variation to provide interest for those with only a casual interest in the genre. Masterminded by Rune “Blasphemer” Eriksen (former guitarist/songwriter for Black Metal titans Mayhem) and featuring César “CSR” Vesvre (one-time session drummer for French Death Metal band Agressor), the project was inspired by the discovery of a demo tape of Mayhem riff ideas from 1998/99.
I’m a firm believer that the situation in which you listen to music, has a bearing on the impact that it has on you. With this in mind, I grabbed my best quality headphones and laid in bed to dedicate my full attention to listening. It’s worth noting at this point that I’m a relative newcomer to Black Metal, and have very little prior exposure to Mayhem, so I went into this with fresh ears and no expectation or benchmark.
The first track 'Blood.Sacrifice.Enthronement' opens with quiet, panned feedback and eerie, whispered voices, with guitars rising in volume before kicking in fully with the drums. Vesvre announces himself with fast and complex drum patterns that pound along under crisp, brutal Black Metal riffs, utlising chords and tremolo picking to maximum effect. The track continues in this way until an instrumental break at around 4 minutes (at slightly over 10 minutes in total, there is more packed in after this). There is a lot more space given to the instruments in this middle section, which is more melodic than the previous 4 minutes. Blasphemer’s raspy, snarling vocals continue and sparse drum-fills punctuate the building atmosphere. From here, the track builds and builds into the final minute where the frantic, heavy riffs and drums kick in again.
The first track sets the tone for the album nicely, then moves into the second track 'The Triumph (Of Night & Fire)', which starts with a haunting, picked chord melody, before launching into blast beats and the frantic tremolo riffing that we heard in the opener. At 4:36, the track is less than half the runtime of the first, so features no lengthy middle section, but tears along with Blasphemer spitting and growling the vocals (except for a few eerie, spoken vocals). The opening riff comes back in and rounds off the track nicely.
The remaining five tracks vary between four and seven minutes, and feature the same frantic, brutal (yet memorable) Black Metal riffs, intricate drums, blast beats and the occasional atmosphere-soaked melodic passages. The changes of pace seem to be perfectly placed within the album, to give a brief respite from the pummelllng, and do well to showcase Blasphemer’s versatility and range on the guitar. Track six 'Fall of Seraphs' is a Mayhem cover, taken from the 1999 album 'Mediolanum Capta Est', which fits within the time period that Blasphemer is paying homage to. Track seven 'Ao Rio' is also noteworthy, as it features a single guitar and clean vocals, creating an eerie, atmospheric interlude before the blistering final track.
I’ve listened to the album a few times now, and there are a lot of layers still to unpack. This is one I will be coming back to frequently, and will likely be in contention when it comes to AOTY season. As I alluded to earlier, there is something that even metal heads who aren’t fans of the genre can enjoy here. With solid, well-balanced production (not the toilet-bowl production that is sometimes synonymous with the genre), this could serve as a gateway into the murky depths of the Black Metal scene.