My first impressions upon listening to Our Diabolical Embrace, a one man project founded by N Skog (Ancient Tundra/ proprietor of Hypnotic Dirge Recordings) were generally positive. The music on the EP, Immortal Night Laments, described on the official MySpace as a hybrid of symphonic black metal and gothic metal with influence from early Cradle of Filth (say what you will about them now, the old material will always be cool) had me interested before I even hit play.
Obviously, there are similarities in this project to a lot of other symphonic black metal projects, but the key here is that main man N. Skog knows his way around the genre. The vibe of evil romance is genuine and well crafted, so fans of this kind of music should find it successful. Thematically the project is intriguing at first glance, but vampires and the like are nothing new to black metal, so it remains to been if Our Diabolical Embrace can really make it work. Titles of both the EP and a few of the songs are somewhat clichéd, and the sample lyrics on the MySpace, closing with “And her cunt is mine to dine” had me laughing more than I think was intended.
Musically Skog knows what to use and when. Be it a bell-pad, piano, or just some atmospheric strings, he shows compositional competence. None of the orchestral interludes lag, and the guitars are doing more than following chord progressions, sometimes shining through with their own interesting leads and melodies. Generally, each song sounds like it was written with full attention and heart. This is not the kind of underground black metal that does one thing for the duration of a recording. There are pick-ups and slow-downs, and the majority of the material is well executed and enjoyable enough to keep the listener interested for the duration of the EP.
The one major issue with this release is the mix. Since the MySpace clarifies that Immortal Night Laments is intended to be a sort of demo EP, let these comments serve simply as constructive criticism. The recording is rather unbalanced, even by black metal standards. There is a time and place for everything, and Darkthrone style recording can be a perfect complement for certain music, but Our Diabolical Embrace could benefit from more dynamics. Often the snare drum is absent, and the cymbals sound so thin and trebly they become annoying (perhaps due to the use of a very obviously MIDI drum kit). The guitars are often marhsmallowy and buried, and because the music is very melodic it can detract from the experience (as in the second track “A Spiritual Oppression”). Much of the time interesting melodic instruments are lost simply because they are too quiet.
All in all, the material from Immortal Night Laments is worth looking into. N Skog has produced an intriguing demo containing directional ideas that will hopefully be expanded upon in the future. If he continues to make music of this caliber and can give it a slightly better production treatment, Our Diabolical Embrace will stand out as a good example of what the genre of symphonic/gothic black metal can offer.
-Bryan A. Wysopal