For the most part I like my black metal traditional. Progression in music is great and all, and of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but when it comes to black metal, I typically want to hear some nasty, satanic, troglodyte shit. That’s where Profanatica comes in. They’ve been around since 1990 and are considered to be among the godfathers of the US black metal scene, and throughout their two-plus decades of existence, they’ve somehow managed to keep things both staunchly primitive and evil as hell.
The Curling Flame of Blasphemy is Profanatica’s fourth full length album and indeed the band remains willfully, gloriously unchanged. Sure, the production is probably the best they’ve ever had, and their songwriting continues to improve by leaps and bounds with every release, but at the end of the day they’re still cranking out the same sort of filthy, primeval blackness they were doing as far back as 1991’s Weeping in Heaven; that’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing.
Profanatica’s songwriting formula is simplicity itself; repetitive tremolo-picked guitars are slathered over uncomplicated yet powerful drumming and thick, distorted basslines, while Paul Ledney’s croaking vocal vomit echoes up from the the sonic abyss. The aforementioned bass adds a much-welcomed extra layer of heaviness that’s rather atypical of old school black metal, a genre more often associated with ear-bleeding treble abuse. The repetition of the riffs combines with the rumbling low-end frequencies to create a hypnotic effect, especially when the tempos slow to the point where the lines blur between black metal and doom.
For all its commitment to traditionalism, The Curling Flame of Blasphemy remains compelling throughout its near forty minute duration by virtue of Profanatica simply being very, very good at what they do. If there’s another US black metal band creating music that’s this bulldozingly barbaric while at the same time rife with unholy atmosphere, I’ve yet to hear them.