There is nothing like a nearly-15-year hiatus to allow a band time to refresh and update their sound. And that’s what we’ve got with Swedish industrial black metal trio Diabolicum, who haven’t released a full-length since 2001. They emerge from that hibernation to release la Pazuzu (The Abyss of the Shadows), an album that combines more than just industrial and black metal elements across its 40-minute run time. On it, Diabolicum harnesses all the energy, hatred and evil of black metal while sprinkling elements of lighter genres in a DJ-like, almost trance-like, manner. And despite the usually confining label of “industrial” there are diverse ingredients to admire throughout.
So, yes, there are moments of absolute trance style electronica; as “Genocide Bliss” rapidly deteriorates into an expansive, trance-like electronic piece, it’s hard not to think of scenes from the movie Blade. Picture vampires dancing in an underground meat locker as a DJ spins samples over a metallic, thumping beat. Maybe blood even sprays from the ceiling. The point is, those moments exist and they are something that will never not exist in industrial music. And, yes, those moments can be insufferable to someone looking for metal. But those moments aside, la Pazuzu is a somewhat enjoyable listen.
And it begins with vocalist Niklas Kvarforth—also of Swedish BM act Shining—who stands out as a high point across the album. On tracks like “Salvation Through Vengeance” and “One Man’s War” he is almost militaristic in his growls—a call to action of sorts. On “Void of Astoroth” he keeps rhythm with his halting, obliterating screams. But throughout the entirety of la Pazuzu, an album that is teeming with samples, it’s the actual organic vocal work that really stands out.
There is also the expert guitar playing of lead guitarist Likstrand. At times, he takes solos reminiscent of metal’s past and wholly separate from the confining “industrial” label that Diabolicum seems somewhat interested in shirking. Not that gothic influences and keyboards are so “out-of-bounds” for industrial music, but Likstrand’s soloing—especially on “Angelmaker”—is positively progressive, sounding as if it was straight off an Intervals album. Perhaps it’s his inclusion in Diabolicum that’s pushed the band on such a progressive and open-minded path. And it’s that experimentation that makes the album work on some level.
Another factor that must be mentioned is the ability of Diabolicum to create a mood, as displayed on the title track. Vocals and programming intertwine to create a thickly-webbed, ambient abyss of sorts. And preceding the militaristic “One Man’s Army,” that abyss is very much appreciated as a mood alteration. And that’s what ultimately makes la Pazuzu successful—balance. That balance creates a flow to the album. Despite the mundane, one-note quality of industrial black metal there are moments here that are enjoyable.