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Diabolou Archaes Legeones (1993)
 

Thou Art Lord can be seen as the offspring of Rotting Christ and Necromantia, featuring members of both bands. It should come to the surprise of no one that among them is Morbid (aka Magus Wampyr Daoloth), who seemed to have his hand in many of the Hellenic Black Metal bands of the early-to-mid '90s. Released in June 1993, the tracks that comprise the Diabolou Archaes Legeones E.P. were taken from their previous demo, The Cult of the Horned One. Some may look down on this, thinking that the band was trying to get extra mileage out of the same material, yet that was not the case. Their demo tape was self-released, meaning that much fewer had the opportunity to hear it, whereas this 7" was released by Molon Lave Records and gave Thou Art Lord more exposure, eventually enabling them to record a full-length album.

The two songs on here, "The Era of Satan Rising" and "Praising the Impure", share some similarities. As a matter of fact, the second song begins with the same drum beat that ended the previous track, which gives it a feeling of redundancy. This is especially harmful, since the opener is such a great song. Thankfully, the material soon shifts and displays a different side of the band. The first tune is more straightforward, featuring a mixture of fast-paced staccato and tremolo riffs, with a slower section later on that allows for an interesting lead melody to unfold. The second song unleashed the mid-paced riffs much earlier, while also making more use of the synth and attempting to create a totally different atmosphere. There are brief moments where a clean guitar emerges from the darkness, adding yet another layer of darkness. While the music can, easily, be compared to Rotting Christ's output from the same period, it is noticeably darker and a bit morose. It is unfortunate that the label opted to save the other song for a split release, as it is an even better example of the gloomier songwriting. The production is not too far off from what would be heard on Eosforos. Naturally, the sound possesses a lower quality and things seem somewhat muffled, when directly compared to their first L.P. That being said, it is still superior to a good number of full-length albums that were being released around this time.

Diabolou Archaes Legeones is a safe bet for anyone with a fondness for Hellenic Black Metal, or Thou Art Lord in particular. It is difficult to call it essential, simply based on the fact that it only contains two songs, one of which is available in very similar form on their debut album. While the other track is very solid, it is not brilliant enough to warrant going to great lengths to seek this out.
 
(17 Jan. 2012)

 
 

In 1993, Magus Wampyr Daoloth (George Zaharopoulos) and Necromayhem (Sakis Tholis) came together to create the intense Hellenic Black Metal band, Thou Art Lord. Some might have looked at this as merely a collaboration between the minds behind Necromantia and Rotting Christ, though Magus was actually a member of Rotting Christ at this time, anyway. In reality, he was involved in quite a large number of projects, proving to be a very creative and motivated musician. At any rate, by 1994, they released the debut full-length from Thou Art Lord, titled Eosforos (meaning "Lucifer").

A good friend of mine from northern Greece exposed me to this band, after I'd asked the feeble question of whether or not there were any decent bands in the Hellenic scene, beyond Rotting Christ, Varathron and Necromantia. Well, as I soon found out, the answer was a resounding yes. Upon first listen, Eosforos seemed to have the typical Hellenic sound; in fact, I would have mistaken it for a lost Rotting Christ album, had I not known better. But, after listening a little more closely, I soon realized that there was something darker that permeated this record.

"For the Lust of Lilith" is an intense way to open the album, slowly fading from the nothingness and then completely annihilating all in its path. It begins with furious riffing and pounding drums, before transitioning to a mid-paced section, and then speeding up yet again. Just as they did on Thy Mighty Contract and, to a lesser extent, on Non Serviam, Necromayhem and the Magus trade vocals, alternating between the higher-pitched rasps and deeper vocals. During the faster moments, this song utilizes the staccato riffing that this scene is so well known for, as well as mid-paced riffs that carry the feeling of doom, accentuated by minimal keyboard use that is done very well. This is a great way to begin the album, and really has a way of getting your adrenaline pumping and preparing you for war. If you're not ready to completely explode by the time this song is over, someone may need to check your pulse to verify that you're even still alive.

The next song is "Disciples of Black Sorcery", and it starts with a slower pace. In this case, the drumming dictates the pace more than anything, as the guitars could have fit over fast or slow, either way. The song structure is a little more complicated than the previous track, giving more of an epic feeling and taking you deeper on this hellish journey. Mid-way through, things speed up and a chill comes over you as both voices scream the title of the song, with a great tremolo riff underneath. I would comment on how memorable this one is, but this is something that it shares in common with the rest of the album.

"Eosforos Rex Infernus" continues this feeling, opening with a healthy pace. The production is very similar to that found on Non Serviam, which would make sense as two of the same musicians were involved, not to mention that it was recorded in the same studio and produced by the same guy. The sound is much thicker than what most would expect from a Black Metal album in 1994, but it definitely works and the atmosphere only gets darker as things progress.

On an album full of amazing songs, it is a true compliment to say that the next one manages to stand out, even amongst such greatness. "Towers of the Autumn Moon" begins with an eerie keyboard intro that sounds like something from an old horror movie, helping to build some suspense. As you walk into the shadows, you have no idea what awaits you, until it's too late. The crushing riffs assault you from the darkness, with the brutality of a sledgehammer on an infant's skull. The fast staccato riffing rips and tears through you, rather than making precise cuts. The keyboard part seems awkward at first, until you realize that this is the desired effect; to give some uneasy feeling. Things get much faster for the refrain, exploding with fury, before descending back to the mid-paced section once more. The lead guitar adds a nice touch to the main riff, giving a bit more life to it. Late in the song, things get much slower, creating an aura of doom and dread. The riff is slightly reminiscent of something from Hypocrisy's Osculum Obscenum, as it fades out.

"A Call to Chaos (Kaos - Keravnos - Kybernetos)" starts out with some strange sounds, creating an unsettling feeling, before an intense and fast-paced riff erupts from the confusion, with the higher-pitched vocals screaming over it. There's some almost murderous rage in his voice. This is a good example of what many modern bands miss out on and totally forget: feeling. One way or another, if your music inspires no feeling in the listener and conveys nothing, then you've failed as a musician. Late in the song, there's another memorable section where things slow down and the words kaos keravnos kybernetos are chanted, adding to the evil feeling.

The next song is "Through the Eye of the Heirophant", beginning with an eerie intro. There's definitely some strange eastern vibe here. Once the song gets started, this feeling still doesn't go away. The riffs are simply creepy as hell, with a flute (I think) that soon accompanies the rest. The main riff is dark and haunting, as it permeates your very being and sinks into your subconscious. Assuming that you are in any way receptive to this, it is guaranteed to remain in your brain, lurking through the darkness, for quite some time. There is a seething intensity that is present in these riffs, that is unmatched by most. By the middle, the pace changes a bit and there's a riff that seems pretty similar to something from Non Serviam, though I'm not sure which album was released first. The solo near the end adds to the already memorable and epic atmosphere, as the song then fades out.

"Warhammer" begins with some strange intro that seems suitable for an ancient war. The first riff has a strong Death Metal feeling, especially due to the production, before going into something thrashier and then to a more typical Hellenic sound. Out of everything on the album, this is the one song that I might say would be less necessary than the others, but it soon redeems itself with some great melodies and solos. All in all, it could have used a little tweaking, though it still manages to stand out and retain its own identity, just like every other song here.

The final track is "The Era of Satan Rising". Once again, the band implemented an eerie intro piece, building a sense of tension that has been all-too-present throughout this record. Demonic screams erupt from the calm, joined by a dark and somber tremolo riff and blasting drums that seem intent on caving in your skull. If Thou Art Lord intended to end the album on a memorable and epic note, they definitely succeeded. Things slow down, later in the song, with mid-paced riffs and lead solos that possess a lot of feeling. After lulling the listener into a false sense of security, things speed up once more. Such a journey has a way of weakening your heart and preparing you to be taken into the vast nothingness by the grim spectre of death.

This is an amazing piece of Hellenic Black Metal. While the surface seems to share many similarities with Non Serviam from Rotting Christ, it becomes apparent that the atmosphere of Eosforos is somewhat darker and more mysterious. This is a classic release from this scene, and of the sub-genre as a whole. Seek this out at all costs. The band may have degenerated in subsequent years, but this one shall forever remain a classic.
 
(8 Jan. 2010)

 
 

Thou Art Lord should have been one of the elite bands of the entire Hellenic Black Metal scene. Their 1994 debut album, Eosforos, was one of the best record to ever come out of that region. Unfortunately, the band failed to properly follow up on this offering. Released in 1996, Apollyon simply does not capitalize on the momentum of their first album. This was a critical juncture in the band's career and their inability to deliver when it counted may have had something to do with the fact that their sophomore release was followed by six years of inactivity.

Musically, Apollyon is very inconsistent. Whereas the first album flowed well and maintained the same style, throughout, this one is all over the place. Songs like "Hate Is Thicker Than Love" and "Experimental Magic" are fairly straightforward and carry on the Hellenic Black Metal style, quite well. The former is actually a very intense and memorable track. However, some of the material sounds as if it was performed by a different band. "Prelude to the Apocalypse" seems like Thou Art Lord's take on Unleashed-inspired Death Metal. "He Who the Gods Hath Feared" is an esoteric instrumental piece, that really has nothing to do with the overall vibe of the album. "Societas Satanas" is dominated by a Black / Thrash feeling that would have fit in better on a Zemial record, though it is infiltrated by clean vocals and annoying keyboards. The final tracks, "Moonscar" and "In Blood We Trust", demonstrate a Celtic Frost influence that is not heard elsewhere. Of course, there are more typical Hellenic riffs mixed into most of these tracks, but there is nothing consistent about the style or quality of the material. Not only would one have a difficult time in determining whether or not all of these songs belonged on the same album, but it is even harder to tell that it is the same band that recorded the brilliant Eosforos.

The production is a little more harsh, lacking the thicker sound that was found on the previous album. The guitar tone is thinner and more dry, which adds kind of a sterile feeling to the music. It is still underground and tracks like "Experimental Magic" actually benefit from the sound, but it is too much of a departure from the band's previous work. Not only is the material weaker, but the production comes off as if it is trying to emulate the northern sound, to an extent. The problem is that the songwriting does not really support this type of approach.

Apollyon features a few really good songs that are certainly worth hearing, yet the rest of the material is so poor that it is impossible to recommend this album unless you find it for only a couple dollars. It is unclear what Thou Art Lord was attempting to do with this record, but it is safe to say that they failed.
 
(16 Dec. 2011)

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