S.: Vocals / Lyric
XCIII: Guitar / Lyrics / Songwriting
Destroyer: Vocals / Guitar
Wyrd: Bass / Backing Vocals
XCIII: Guitar / Backing Vocals
Existing at the forefront of the Polish black metal movement, Blaze Of Perdition return with their fifth full-length, The Harrowing Of Hearts – their most urgent, refined, dynamic and accomplished work to date. Richly layered, it is also their most textured release, and they dive ever deeper into the themes they have been exploring since dropping their debut full-length in 2010, Towards The Blaze Of Perdition. "I would say the new record is to 2017's Conscious Darkness what [2011's] The Hierophant was for Towards The Blaze Of Perdition - a continuation of the initial idea, but in more energetic and catchy form. Perhaps more approachable and listener-friendly, but it's not up to me to decide," states vocalist Sonneillon. "Although some gothic rock influences could be heard on Conscious Darkness, here we took them out of the shadows and let them shine in the spotlight. It's also our most collectively written effort so far, with every band member throwing something meaningful to the whole."
Proud of Conscious Darkness - believing it to be their first release where everything came together 100% as intended, both artistically and in terms of the production - the band had quite the challenge before them in following it up, but they have done so with confidence and have easily equalled if not bettered everything they achieved before. Going into every record with a rough plan or at least a vague concept this time was no different, though they don't rigidly hold themselves to this. "It shifts and twists along the road, sometimes drastically. Although we - sooner or later - know what we aim for, we don't really analyze and calculate anything too much. It has to grow and flow naturally and eventually get out in the form of riffs, lyrics etc when the time is right." Rather than load the album with 9+ minute tracks, this time around they reined in the running times, making space for 7 songs, each with their own distinct personality. That the band's ranks were refreshed with new blood in the form of guitarist M.R and drummer DQ also played a part in the shaping of the record, the former co-writing "With Madman's Faith" and adding some guitar arrangements while the latter's talents had a strong influence on the overall direction. "His playing style is definitely different, it's safe to say it's 'less metal' than [predecessor] Vizun's. It's not as dense and brutal, but rather focused on a rock-esque vibe, which suits our new songs just great, and had an impact on their shape and direction as well." Importantly, the band also do not rigidly hold themselves to strictly doing things 'the black metal way', and they follow ideas where they take them, frequently breaking from genre norms in doing so, such as on the punchy bass and drums break on "With Madman's Faith" and the post-rock-esque passage on "The Great Seducer". "To me, it's mostly the emotional content that makes the music what it is, not the form of expression, so we don't actually think over the ideas in terms of if they're black metal enough or not. We focus on what we want to express and how to do it and if we want a riff to be more rock or punk-influenced or whatever then we go with it - as long as it makes sense to us composition-wise, of course. Besides, black metal has been reimagined, re-influenced and reshaped countless times, and so many self-important people claim to have authority over the genre and how it should be expressed that I don't think there's any real pattern here or rules to obey anymore. Art means freedom after all."
Lyrically, the record is at least in part a continuation of the topics explored on Conscious Darkness, taking the listener into dark and complex territory that is the equal of the musical accompaniment. "It's related to and partially based on the Christian concept of "The Harrowing of Hell" which is Christ's descent into Hell. Heart serves here as a symbolical Hell, a source of our deepest and darkest desires, forbidden thoughts, fears etc. Thus The Harrowing of Hearts puts us in Christ's shoes on a metaphorical journey into one's soul to face and come to terms with whatever it holds, very close to the Jungian concept of shadow integration mentioned here and there on our previous album." However, the record addresses more personal themes too. "We started pretty traditionally, with a focus on the occult, satanism, luciferianism and so on, but with each release we've been shaking things up a little bit and directing our eyes towards channeling our own personal thoughts and ideas rather than repeating what's been said thousands of times before. I'd say today Blaze Of Perdition's lyrical themes are mostly connected to general spirituality, with a focus on the shadow side of our psyche, drenched in some sort of existential, perhaps even social commentary on the world around us." Accordingly, "Suffering Made Bliss" looks into the addiction - conscious or not - to both physical and mental/spiritual distress, about suffering as a stimulant, making us feel alive and the futility of any efforts to avoid it, while "With Madman's Faith" tells a story of doubt and hesitation, and asks if any pursuits for wisdom bring us serenity and closure or are just taunting rabbit holes with no end or destination at all - but it also hints that it's not the destination but the journey itself that is what is ultimately important. Then there is one of the album's standouts, "Królestwo Niebieskie", which according to Sonneillon "is a hymn to our darkest human nature, the unconscious need for rejection of moral norms and proud work towards letting our passions roam free in the face of the unknown, maybe even in the face of damnation. Very Dionysian on one hand, but with a hint of doubt and hesitation as well."
Working with the same producer they've been teaming with since 2013 and with artwork designed by Izabela Grabda, every aspect of The Harrowing Of Hearts has come together as intended, and with Metal Blade now behind them the band are now ready to work their asses off to spread their name ever further. It's also safe to say the members of Blaze Of Perdition don't feel like they have anything to prove going into 2020. "To me art isn't about proving anything to anyone, it's about the expression of whatever one wants to express and channeling emotions and/or abstract concepts into something perceptible, something that might turn out to be just as precious for others. Focusing on proving anything to anyone usually doesn't do any good for artistic endeavors."