Hailing from Greece, The Hidden Paths To Black Ecstasy is the group's debut release on Dark Descent. The act consider themselves to be a bit more than an act, actually and would consider The Hidden Paths To Black Ecstasy to be a “sonic grimiore” of some sort. As in, it is a literal book of black magic in the form of black metal. They also consider themselves to be Luciferian fanatics, and seem to have developed an entire foundation based on several orders of LHP. While that is all well and good, I'm not here to review the disc for it's occult qualities, but for it's musical qualities – and I found those to be quite pure and fresh. Nox Formulae sound like the kind of black metal act that actually has force and feeling behind it. It has that “raw yet produced” quality that makes it stand out, especially in craftsmanship.
Wolfsbane 1.1 is a hell of a guitarist and he's capable of bringing out some very bright leads to what can at times be rather dark and oppressive soundscapes, just like we like them. Mezkal also stands out well in the mix, utilizing a large variety of drum frills which change the music from everything to standard-fare black metal, to something a bit more groove-laden, like mid-era Satyricon. If you're looking for something truly traditional from these Greeks, beware – because you're not going to find it here.
As far as the band's frontmen, they perform in much of the same fashion that we'd expect from occult black metal, like theatrical shouts and spoken word sections in addition to the harsh scowls (which are definitely the best point of their vocal work.) It's a bit unusual for a band to have three vocalists, but Monkshood 333 (which I am assuming is responsible for the scowls) along with added bits by Nightshade (probably not named after the NES classic) and Kurgasiaz seem to work well enough together to make a listener believe that these three voices are coming from just one individual. In my book, that's quite stellar.
The record itself is only about forty-five minutes long, but it's approach of mixing what at times can be bludgeoning black metal with more disco-friendly beats (and hey, I'm not judging here – I love that kind of approach) while at the same time peppering the disc with sections of atmopshere and lead melodies (we might as well call them guitar solos, even though they seem to be pushed towards the back a bit) makes for a listen that doesn't get old.
Most of what I've read as far as the concept of the record is concerned seems to mix various occult schools in with something like H.P. Lovecraft, but that to me represents not only a modernization of the sound as a whole, but of the occulticism behind it. It would not be foolish or erroneous to consider The Hidden Paths To Black Ecstasy a new-school approach to black metal, as by all means; that is what we are getting here. It still resembles black metal to me, but it doesn't leave me with many of the lumbering approaches that I have heard from hordes of black metal acts on a day to day basis. I still cannot tell you why most of the end sections of these tracks, which consist mainly of a notable guitar solo or melody, sound so muffled in the back – I'm still not sure why that is. Even the creepy melody that begins “O.D. Dominion” sounds a bit muffled, but it's really nothing to complain about too much. At least it is an audible melody, which is more than what I would get from some of the other bands in the genre.
Greece has always had a certain touch which black metal that I've always considered very interesting and efficient, which might have something to do with how popular the Luciferian archetypes have become over there within it's rock scene (keep in mind that Rotting Christ are considered a rock band in Greece, and are considered one of the country's best) and the possible influence that many of those could have within the collective subconscious of these musicians. Greek black metal aways seems to have a very artistic and sometimes even a beautiful approach, depending on the act – which I think has much to do with that beautified Luciferian egregore by which an entire belief basis has been molded from. Truly Greece is becoming Lucifer's country, which I see no issue with, especially if they continue to make impressive black metal like this for many more years to come.
It's worth mentioning that aside from the large number of atheists in France, there had been (and still is to some extent) a great deal of Luciferian related occult black metal acts there as well. I don't tend to like the French approaches as much as the Grecian ones though, there's just something truly unique about them. However, I do not think it's fair to say that Greek black metal has ever had a subpar release, or that French black metal has never had an amazing release. The reviews on this blog would allow a listener to discern both of those points easily.
In any case, I think Dark Descent really found a great acquisition here with Nox Formulae and they continue to show the strength of that mighty Luciferian archetype, by which I hope never falters or fails to inspire these great works of modern art.
(9 Tracks, 45:00)