FORMICARIUS – Rending The Veil Of Flesh

FORMICARIUS – Rending The Veil Of Flesh

Symphonic black metal had its hayday in the 90s when bands such as Emperor, Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth ruled the metal day. The likes of Carach Angren and, to a lesser degree, The Black Dahlia Murder, built up on this legacy for their own stylings. This British quintet draws from both schools with excellent results.

Formicarius formed in 2014, released a succesful single "Lake Of The Dead" a year later (featured by Sony on their Speed Kills VII compilation) followed by the debut album, "Black Mass Ritual" (2017), on Schwarzdorn Production, which received great reviews. The follow up, this here, 9 track "Rending The Veil Of Flesh" is the coronation of their vision.

Lyrically, Formicarius use the Bible for the support of their position, to expose Christianity’s sins and crimes, which no one, regardless of their spiritual stand, can deny. It is no secret that many Christians are hypocrites and, to quote Brennan Manning, the greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That fact has been rightly used by metal musicians, including black metal vocalists, as a two edged sword, and this is precisely what the Brits are doing here. At the same time, there is a palpable longing in Formicarius which echoes Apostle Paul, whereby we continually groan, longing to be clothed with our habitation that is from heaven, because truly, after we are clothed, we will not be found naked (2 Corinthians 5:2-3, REV). Yet, while Formicarius seems to be longing for life without the flesh, Paul hopes for a new flesh since we who are in this tent continually groan, being burdened, not that we want to be unclothed, but to be clothed; so that what is mortal is swallowed up by life (2 Corinthians 5:4, REV). The difference is subtle, since esoteric spirituality, including occultism and Satanism, both celebrates the flesh and scorns it, much like, interestingly, mainstream Christianity which is blind to the fact that the doctrine of eternal soul subsisting fleshless contradicts both Testaments of the Bible. Is Formicarius exposing the similarities or the Christian hypocrisy of those who think themselves more spiritual? Perhaps both, and the question is a deep one, just like the music.

To an extent, these Londoners wear their influences on their sleeves. Vocalist and guitarist Daniel "Lord" Saunders and bassist Simon "Hægtesse" McAuliffe growl like an amalgamate of Daniel Lloyd "Dani Filth" Davey, Stian Tomt "Shagrath" Thoresen, Dennis "Seregor" Droomers, and Trevor Strnad, while Lord Saunders joins lead guitarist Paul Nazarkardeh (lead guitars) in coming up with the most telling patterns recalling Cradle Of Filth (Early Will I Seek Thee), Dimmu Borgir (Stalker Among The Stars), Carach Angren (O Dread Impaler) and The Black Dahlia Murder (Beyond The Veil Of Flesh), respectively to the aforementioned vocalists. There’s plenty of hooks and melodies but the tracks resemble more compositions than songs proper, with verses and choruses. When they do write songs of that sort, they are suberb with fantastic soaring choruses, such as the sort of black metal Megadeth of "Inherit Our Sickness" or "Dieu Et Mon Droit" (God And My Right), dripping of latter Death multiple melodicism, while "Early Will I Seek Thee" (prefaced by recitation of Hebrews 9:13-14), has the vocal phrasings of a sped up Morbid Angel’s "Where The Slime Live". You need only to hear the fantastic Emperor-ic progressive closer "O Dread Impaler" to hear and believe that Formicarius are fantastic and ridiculously skilled musicians.

After multiple spins I am convinced that some tracks are better than others, though. The opener, "Beyond The Veil Of Flesh" is very good but it pales in comparison to its immediate follower or the spectacular "Inherit Our Sickness", while the more traditional metal-driven, "The Crusade" Trivium-sounding "Crimson Plague" is a little too chaotic, lacking definitive chorus, despite some fantastic guitarwork.

As Jesus Christ entered once and for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus obtaining everlasting redemption (Hebrews 9:12, REV), Formicarius entered the Dimmu Borgir-famous Parlour Studios and showed us what is possible in symphonic black metal. I, for one, shall await the day of their return with baited breath, on the edge of my seat.