Waxen - Blasphemer in Celestial Courts
Moribund Records
Technical Blackened Thrash
6 songs (32'36")
Release year: 0
Reviewed by Alex

Toby Knapp is probably mostly associated with technical guitar playing, neoclassical shredding, his own self-titled project and power metal team Onward. The truth, however, is the man has been a fan and a participant of the more extreme side of metal for a while. I wouldn’t be able to name all (or even many) projects he has been associated with, but Godless Rising with Jeff Gruslin (Vital Remains) comes to mind. Waxen, though, is probably Knapp’s most consistent, most long lived black metal project. In existence for over a decade, several albums to its discography, Blasphemer in Celestial Courts is the latest installment. And if you have never heard Waxen before, and doubt how an Yngwie fan can play black metal, Blasphemer in Celestial Courts should clear up the misunderstanding.

Truthfully though the album moved Waxen from rawer more bedroom style black metal of the earlier albums to what Toby Knapp probably was destined to play given his guitar wielding abilities. Blasphemer in Celestial Courts is unabashed blackened thrash and has no qualms about it. Not the one note, wild woods, grinding variety, but technical with expected guitar leads (Lilithian Gates) and sweeps (The Oriens of Astaroth) providing the unusual angle to the music. Undeniably riff based (Lilithian Gates), taking its playful thrash to the power metal borders (The Oriens of Astaroth), Blasphemer in Celestial Courts songs have structure to them so this doesn’t become a mindboggling technical kaleidoscope like recently reviewed Suhnopfer. There is total flow and purpose to this music when familiar guitar tremolos transition into a Sodom riff (Child Scryer). The first half of the album may not pass the black metal purity test, and nothing here is of outright evil variety anyway, but, man, is it fun to listen to. Despite vocals pushed into the background, despite Mardukian made up song titles, despite randomly dropped endings (The Oriens of Astaroth), despite some plasticky artificial drum sound and overpowering hammering bass pedals, the energy, the enthusiasm just spills overboard, it is so infectious.

In the second half of Blasphemer in Celestial Courts, starting with the title track, Knapp figures things have to get closer to truer blacker variety. Title track breathes expansive rolling epic black metal, with both bent notes and cleaner melody supporting the epic impression in equal ways. Dreaming in Enochian and The Abyss Between Man and God blast and pummel away the most, Dreaming in Enochian being probably the most malevolent track on the album, sounding almost Sigh-like in spots, and forgive me if I hear Red Army hymns on both Dreaming in Enochian and The Abyss Between Man and God, specifically Polyushko Polje hook on The Abyss Between Man and God.

If you allow quality technical playing in black metal, and don’t measure blackness in disturbing atmosphere, amount of lo-fi or suffocating troll vocals, go ahead give Waxen a chance and don’t be embarrassed to appreciate a clean faced, no corpse paint, guitarist. If you count early 90s Swedish black metal like Dissection or Naglfar as your favorites, and can forgive the lack of slicing coldness in the music, Blasphemer in Celestial Courtsshould hit closest to home.

Killing Songs :
Lilithian Gates, The Oriens of Astaroth, Blasphemer in Celestial Courts
Alex quoted 82 / 100
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