Peaceville’s 35th-Anniversary Compilation Dark Side of the Sacred Star is Out of This World
Last year, the legendary Peaceville Records turned 35. Founded by Paul “Hammy” Halmshaw in 1987, the label’s been involved in some amazing releases over the years. To mark this milestone, the label unveiled an anniversary compilation vinyl titled Dark Side of the Sacred Star last December. This month, Peaceville continued the celebration by releasing a two-disc CD version with additional material.
The vinyl, or the first disc, features bands that play black metal or incorporate black elements within the fabric of their music: Darkthrone, Mortem, RUïM, Doedsmaghird, Dødheimsgard, Kvist, Mork, Mortuary Drape, Avmakt, Hellripper, Thorns’ Snorre Ruch, and Sigh. While some of the tracks are brand new, others are different versions of songs we’ve already heard before. For instance, Darkthrone presented us with an edit of “Impeccable Caverns of Satan” from their most recent album, Astral Fortress. This song reminds us that Astral Fortress hasn’t lost any of its magic since it first spellbound audiences in October.
The opening track “Aftermath” from the pioneers Mortem, whose lineup features some of metal’s greatest musicians, hooks you immediately with its knock-out potion harshness and scalding beauty. It thrusts you into the dungeon of real metal, where you next fall prey to the skull-splitting supremacy of “O Sino da Igreja (Threat Mix)” — our very first glimpse into the twisted universe of RUïM. “O Sino da Igreja (Threat Mix)” feels like a descent down the dark, knife-filled corridors of madness. It slays you with killer riffs, menacing vocals, a touch of laughter, and a veteran’s ease. RUïM is the brainchild of the revered Blasphemer, who has enlisted French musician CSR on drums. Blasphemer mines inspiration from his Mayhem-era work, Brazilian witchcraft, Umbanda tradition, etc. Peaceville first announced that they had signed RUïM in October 2022. Watch out for RUïM’s debut album this year! I’ll bet my money on RUÏM, alongside another band discussed below, to become the next biggest thing to rock the genre!
The majestic and thrilling instrumental demo “Gærne Sia av Fjorden” by Kvist marks the return of this highly regarded and influential yet still under-recognized act from the ’90s. The news that they plan to release a new album seems too good to be true, given the cult status of their sole full-length record, For kunsten maa vi evig vike. Endezzma’s Morten Shax explained on The Thomas Eriksen Podcast that Kvist ran into trouble when drummer Endre Bjotveit, who actually turned down a place in Emperor, became afflicted by inflammation in his arms. Incredibly, back in the day, the late genius Trondr Nefas of Urgehal, Beastcraft, Vulture Lord, etc. was involved with the group to an extent.
Formed in 2004, Mork is the one-man band of Thomas Eriksen — the millennial face of True Norwegian Black Metal. Mork’s “Alrunens Hevn” is a gorgeous piece of ear candy that offers instant euphoria. This lustrous yet delightfully wicked track is a perfectly balanced gem that encapsulates what you love about black metal while displaying the ingenuity of Thomas Eriksen. Although “Alrunens Hevn” was recorded at the same time as Mork’s most recent album, the sublime Dypet, it stands apart as its own little island. Eriksen has spoken about the challenging yet inevitable task of cutting songs from his albums. Although his decision to place “Alrunens Hevn” here instead confirms that his intuition is right, the track deserves to be released as a single as well. Eriksen still has more leftover material from the Dypet period that he hopes to release as an EP. Based on “Alrunens Hevn,” this potential EP should be phenomenal!
Although certain artists like Mork always withstand, the biggest downside of the compilation is that, as usual, Vicotnik has managed to zap my enthusiasm for just about all else. In fact, Vicotnik’s work here tempts me to say that if you broke all of my records by other artists, I’d only cringe slightly because I’d know it was probably for the best. Vicotnik actually contributed two brand new tracks to comp: Dødheimsgard‘s “Stemmen fra Evigheten” and our very first taste of Doedsmaghird (the sister band of Dødheimsgard), “Then, to Darkness Return.” Not only are these masterpieces worthy of your tears, but they are among the greatest I’ve heard. Whereas most skilled musicians paint vivid images before you, Vicotnik takes matters further by sculpting, often entire galaxies, around you. Cerebral, poetic, and inventive beyond your wildest dreams, his art belongs in a museum. Not to mention, Vicotnik’s vocal performances and finesse seem to put even the finest thespians to shame.
Don’t worry, Vicotnik has more gifts to bestow upon us: this year, he will unleash Dødheimsgard’s sixth full-length album, Black Medium Current, on April 14, and his debut with Doedsmaghird will follow by about six months. Although Black Medium Current and Metallica’s 72 Seasons coincidentally share the same release date, the former is the one that could be life-changing! The first single, “Abyss Perihelion Transit,” has already dropped.
The compilation ends in an icon-to-icon handoff that feels bittersweet. “Stemmen fra Evigheten” is followed by the 2022 mix of “Helvete Theme” — an instrumental by Thorns’ Snorre Ruch, who is credited with creating the black metal style of riffing along with Euronymous. This transition forces us both to think back to the early days of True Norwegian Black Metal and also try to fathom the towering monuments to artistic excellence that the movement’s architects have continued to erect since then. Regarding Snorre, Vicotnik said it best on Thomas’ podcast: “… I think… everybody in this genre today is inspired by Snorre in some way or another… Mayhem wanted to sound like Thorns. Immortal wanted to sound like Thorns. Everybody…” When Thorns’ new album finally drops, it’s going to be a historic moment!
The second disc contains 21 extra tracks that take you through the history of black/brutal metal, focusing on the ’90s but starting in ’89. The following bands are repeated here: Mortem, Thorns, Kvist, Dødheimsgard, Darkthrone, and Sigh. This disc offers some fun and unexpected picks by artists like the long-disbanded Obtained Enslavement — a polarizing yet thoroughly awesome group that featured the Gorgoroth legend Pest — and Fimbulwinter — a miraculous yet underrated outfit that included pre-fame Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir and Skoll of Arcturus and Ved Buens Ende. Fleurety and Mysticum — two pioneering bands, who currently belong to the Peaceville family and would have been great on disc one — at least appear here. Taake and Carpathian Forest are among the other additions that represent what black metal truly means.
Besides Terratur Possessions’ TERRATUR COMPENDIUM MMXXIII, which came out on March 24, Dark Side of the Sacred Star is one of the best compilations showcasing various artists that we’ve heard in quite a long time.