Over the last ten years or even more black metal has been evolving and shifting in different directions to create new sounds and new interesting music. Bending black metal in certain ways can hurt or it can help. You can always recreate the old sounding black metal but then you run the risk of sounding exactly the same as a million other black metal bands. To do something new within a pretty bleak and black and white genre-up until recently-is a bold move. A lot of people still want to hear that cold bleakness that old school black metal gives you, but at the same time where will that transform and progress into something newer and more innovative? I for one welcome the fresh breath of air that is the new age of black metal. You end up getting more diversity and more to listen to because there are other elements thrown in with black metal. For the Denton,Texas band Sathariel they are a new black metal band that incorporate much more into their music than just cold darkness and Satanic imagery. With their album Mercy Divine they take a step into the progressive realm creating a sound all of their own.
As I mentioned above black metal as a whole can get pretty stagnant and not too much has changed until only recently. Sathariel certainly know how to mix in different elements with the core of the music which is black metal. There are certain symphonic qualities to Sathariel as well as certain death metal elements which are matched with the traditional vocal stylings of heavy metal which would be soaring high clean vocals.
A mixture of all of these can convolute the music if it is not properly proportioned throughout. Sathariel properly spread the wealth of each of the different genres that are mixed in making the music feel natural and not forced.
With the very core of the music being black metal, everything revolves around that. The black metal is there in the symphonic elements, the evil whispering in certain songs as well as the vocals that are a higher pitched roar instead of a ear piercing shriek.
The death metal shows up a little more in the musicianship than anything else. The riffs aren’t as bleak and cold, instead they’re focused and sharp and within a lot of the songs you get some pretty fiery guitar solos as well. Accompanying the guitars are the drums which blast and pummel their way into your blackened brain. Each element does cross over from death metal and black metal, but one element that each genre does have in common that is a running theme here in Mercy Divine is the thick bass. Every song has it and it is very audible and provides more than just finger shredding solos and blasts.
Sathariel provide a dual threat on vocals throughout. There are the gravely screams but paired with those are the high pitched cleans. The cleans are theatrical and powerful; they are the type of vocals that were incredibly popular in the 70’s and 80’s with bands like Iron Maiden coming out and Judas Priest. Now I’m not saying they’re as good as those heavy metal gods, I’m simply saying that the cleans are strong and sound great next to the roars. Other than just the musicianship the vocals-especially the cleans-give Sathariel more to work with and give the listener more to think about.
Through the shredding solos, pounding guitars, and the soaring cleans Mercy Divine is a great album. It provides diversity within black metal by mixing in a few newer elements and it just overall is a great listen.