Satanic Black Devotion is the first full-length from the Finnish Black Metal band Sargeist, a side-project of Horna's guitarist/songwriter Shatraug. This is a great album. The production is good and follows closely to the standards set by the Norwegian scene of the early 90s. The melodies are very introspective and mournful at times. Each song has its own identity, that is, if you are actually familiar with raw Black Metal. The Darkthrone influence is obvious, yet it is unmistakably Finnish. The melodies give it away, immediately. There is variation in tempo just where needed, and the mix of the vocals is flawless. The atmosphere is evil and melancholic. This is absolutely not over-produced and the drums are low in the mix, where they belong, and the focus is on guitar melodies.
The various songs maintain an identity of their own and flow together nicely. From the opener, "Satanic Black Devotion", to the closer, "Returning to Misery & Comfort", this album delivers everything you'd expect. Sargeist is one of the few decent Black Metal bands currently putting out quality material, and stand out as elite among the Finnish scene. This is vastly superior to Shatraug's main band, Horna.
A short intro gives the feeling of a ritual torturing and imbues the listener with a sense of dread. "Satanic Black Devotion" begins with tremolo riffs, blastbeats and high-pitches, raspy vocals. This album owes quite a bit to Transilvanian Hunger, in my view, but does very well to stand on its own. The main riff of the title track is very mournful, and this atmosphere is maintained throughout the album. The pace does to change much during this first song.
"Obire Pestis" continues much like the opener, being fast-paced. "Frowning Existing" begins the same, but changes pace after a short time. This one features more mid-paced sections as well as a different, more tormented, vocalist. The melodies really stand out and by this point one can get a good sense of what the rest of the album will deliver. "Glorification" begins in a mid-paced manner, before speeding up like the rest. This was the first song I heard by this band, on a Moribund sampler and was the reason I checked them out in 2004. The title track is the one that hooked me and resulted in the album coming home with me.
"Panzergod" begins intensely, and open up the second half of the album well enough. This song is easily identifiable while still sounding like the rest. Sargeist have been so consistent with the songs that it will take something very remarkable to be worthy of standing above the rest. "Black Fucking Murder" features one of the catchier riffs on the album, during the chorus, and displays the same consistency that can be found throughout. This is the one that most people will probably gravitate toward.
I always dislike when a band names themselves after one of their songs (or vice versa) but, nevertheless, "Sargeist" is one of the best songs on the album. A morbid, depressive atmosphere is present at all times, as with the rest of the album. The melodies are epic while the execution is very minimalist. There is a very memorable, almost folky, riff that blends in seamlessly. This sort of thing I identify with Finland, for some reason. This song features a few more tempo changes than are found on other songs, which is a good thing to have so deep into the album. Very memorable riffs.
Finally, "Returning to Misery & Comfort" ends the album with, what I consider, the best song on here. This is cold and mournful. The song is fast-paced, but then shifts into a mid-paced riff that is very melancholic and introspective. The lyrics tell of cold hatred and sorrow for what has passed. Sargeist are very wise to begin the album with a strong track, but then to end with the two best ones on the album. This did a good job of making me look forward to the following release, Disciple of the Heinous Path, which came out about a year after I discovered this band. The brilliant down-tempo riff that appeared earlier makes its return a couple more times and ends the album perfectly. It gives the feeling that everything is winding down and coming to an end. This is the point when sorrow and grief overtake the listener and the blood begins to flow...