In June 2010, the little-known French band Supplicium made an artistic statement that has still not been fully comprehended. After fifteen years of empty bands simply imitating those that came before or experimenting with alien influences and diluting the purity of Black Metal, these guys came along to show that there are still some out there that "get it". With their first (and so far, only) full-length album, Magna Atra Missa, Supplicium has taken a step toward reclaiming the true darkness that this music once possessed. While this one-hour-plus epic may be a lot for some to digest, it is exactly the sort of thing that Black Metal needs. This is not about instant gratification, rather, creating a dark and abysmal atmosphere and invoking the ancient forces that served as the inspiration for this genre from its birth.
With five of the album's eight tracks extending past the ten-minute mark, it is no surprise that this record has not yet received the amount of praise that it deserves. So few bother to truly invest themselves in music that demands so much from the listener. However, it is exactly this type of album that is worthy of such total immersion. Musically, there is a good amount of influence from classic-era Mayhem. In fact, this is the sort of music that they should be making. Rather than imitating Darkthrone, Burzum or Emperor, as so many have done over the years, Supplicium follows the lead of the brilliant songwriting found on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. The compositions are very dynamic, and take the listener on a darkened journey into purest hell. Though the bass and drums are audible and are not merely background players, instead adding to the overall effect, this music is very much guitar-oriented. The songwriting is quite ambitious and is dominated by cold and sinister tremolo melodies. So few Black Metal bands are able to come up with truly evil sounding riffs anymore, so this is very refreshing to hear. At times, one can hear the sort of urgency to the riffs that exists on the old Deathspell Omega albums, but here it is done a little better and not so constant, so there is real contrast. The vocals include deeper, more bestial growls and the occasional tormented screams that seem to drift off into the shadows. As with the music, the vocals have a sense of forcefulness that few are capable of anymore. In a way, this sounds like the sort of record Watain should have made to follow up Casus Luciferi, had they not been drained of their passion for this music in the years since. With this album, there is a strong connection to those that came before and paved the way, while still accomplishing something meaningful and not mere plagiarism. The songs here move along at high speed, for the most part, though there are moments where the drums and vocals fade away, leaving only the frigid guitar melodies to pierce your spirit, before the maelstrom resumes. Occasionally, there is a melancholic vibe that comes through, but less the suffering of a solitary being and more the utter damnation of all life. The end of "Limbus Puerorum" does well to convey this feeling of desolation. This is expanded upon during "Evil Slowly Infects Our Souls", a slower-paced song that features fast passages, but centers on a more bleak and mournful feeling. Still, Supplicium opts to focus more on the evil and hellish side of things, rather than to follow the more miserable path of their French predecessors, like Mütiilation. There is a very epic vibe here, also very prevalent on "Diaboli Cultus", with the various tempo changes and the overall tone of the track. Though one might get lost in everything that is going on, during initial listens, it will soon be clear that there are many memorable and utterly haunting melodies that remain with you and keep drawing you back to the overpowering aura of nocturnal evil that is created by the music on this record.
"The eternal night will be our tomb!"
As for the production, there are no complaints. The sound is perfectly suits the music, with cold and evil guitar riffs, while the bass is audible enough to add a dark feeling underneath. Drums are heard but not overdone. The vocals are safely buried enough so that they retain kind of an obscure feeling, at times, and are not terribly clear. The more shrill cries are captured in a manner that sends chills down your spine. The production is very full and dynamic, without sounding plastic or too modern. Everything is aimed at making sure that the guitars dominate the sound and that they remain the primary focus throughout.
Magna Atra Missa is a very solid album of high-quality Black Metal that should be heard by anyone that still bothers to follow this sub-genre. Even those that have long ago given up on modern releases and sticks to the old classics should really put them aside for an hour or so and give this a listen. Where most modern bands completely fail, Supplicium succeeds with great ease. Not only do they maintain the traditions set forth by those that came before them, but they manage to build upon that foundation to create something meaningful and worthwhile. As the years roll by, less and less bands have any clue where this music came from and what it is supposed to represent; however, this is a group of musicians that firmly understand and have crafted something that towers above the better-known releases of commercial bands. Seek this out, by all means.