VRAJITOR’S TENEBRARIUM  E.N.L.D.  LP   (Avantgarde Music)   30.99

There are certain things that grab my attention when it comes to discovering new bands and artists. I try to pay attention to several outstanding Youtube channels that post amazing demos, and Bandcamp releases from bands I've never heard of. Sometimes, I'll be searching through Metal-Archives.com for research, and I'll end up chasing some killer obscure act from Slovenia down a deep and twisting rabbit-hole. And when I'm working on Discogs, there's stuff that I see that will reach out and grab me by the throat. I'm obsessive about reading the "Style" line in band and release listings on that site. You never know what you might find.

Like a band described as "Prog Rock, Dungeon Synth, Funk Metal.

Alright, you' got me. And thus I stumbled across a band called Vrajitor’s Tenebrarium, a new (I assume) Finnish band with one member, a guy called Lord Vechi Vrăjitor, aka Juuso Peltola, who also plays in the black metal bands Warmoon Lord and Argenthorns. Avantgarde pouts out a lot of wild stuff (the label name is there for a reason), and when I picked up this debut album, covered in gloomy, wizard's castle-style artwork and beautifully designed in six-panel digipak, I couldn't wait to hear this thing. OK, so the whole "funk metal" tag is clearly someone being cheeky, but what it is, is some of the best Goblin / Italian prog-rock inspired mutation I've ever heard. This bizarre band wears its influences on its flowing, wizard-robe sleeves, but adds on a whole new level of groovy weirdness that's really different from the other Goblin-influenced outfits I listen to.

Kissed by gloriously nostalgic synthesizers, the opener "Et Mors Pallida Venebit" unfurls waves of majestic Tangerine Dream-esque electronics, symphonic grandeur, and huge-sounding church organs, all folded together into this striking keyboard-heavy introduction inhabited by a female vocalist that sounds like she wandered in from the Celtic Frost Into the Pandemonium sessions. A short but killer blast of synth-drenched darkwave then leads into the similarly synth-heavy prog rock of "Rubedo", filled with lush acoustic strings and spooky arpeggios that have an odd Fabio Frizzi vibe even as the metallic power chords and booming percussion kicks in. When this really starts to rock, it's fuckin' awesome. "Rubedo" has this distinctly 80's spook-prog vibe that's unmistakable, conjuring memories of both Frizzi and Goblin, as well as the weird gothic prog of Jacula and Devil Doll. The way this stuff is layered together with the crunchy, metallic guitars and driving backbeat is just spot-on, man. It's really not at all what I was expecting at first; it's the best type of surprise. Heavy, funky, pseudo-Italian goodness, where Vrajitor breathes much power and magic into the eleven songs, laying down infectiously catchy hooks and a hard rock backbone alongside all of his spirited weirdness. Some righteous saxophone shows up on "Black Frog" next to delicious woodwinds in the background, more elegant acoustic strings on "Lucus Horribilem Atque Pestilentem" as it erupts into a kind of Blue Oyster Cult-meets-Goblin ecstasy; the album feels mostly instrumental, although those feminine vocals and some echoing, chant-like voices do pop up throughout the album. The keyboards get even more Claudio Simonetti-esque as it winds through the labyrinth of moody progressive rock, heavy, crunching riffs, and soaring dark melody, but Vrajitor succeeds in giving this its own unique character, nimbly avoiding being another retro-Goblin-influenced outfit and producing a full, sensual piece of music that (despite the obvious influences) stands on its own as an incredible and original slab of occult Italo-prog. Those Tardo Pede In Magian Versus-era Jacula and Antonius Rex influences are every bit as prominent as the other stuff as well , especially whenever Vrajitor lays on that heavy liturgical pipe organ. The sounds of bouzouki (again, shades of Goblin's Suspiria) and clarinet spread through many of the tracks. There's some great experimental atonality in a few tracks, particularly the pair of songs that close the album, "Exorcismus" and "Semper Victimas Vult ", which wrap it all up with Gregorian-style chanting and an air of an arcane ritual ceremony. Stunning production, too. This album fills the air around me, with all of its intricacies and nuances. I also can't get over how much sax action is happening here, too - the winding jazzy convulsions of "Volantes Castrum" are one of the best on E.N.L.D., especially when the horn segues into some straight-up heavy metal guitar heroics, killer shredding matched by the wild onslaught of chamber strings, piano and whooshing synth. And it is indeed very "funky", the drumming performance propelling the songs forward into huge, massive grooves, eve sliding into stuff like the quasi-disco delirium of "Sanitarium Son".

It's the ultimate in 70's style "spook-prog", free of any kind of retro-irony. I can't stop listening to this. If you're as into the aforementioned bands as well as stuff like Daemonia, Anima Morte, Morte Macabre, Giallos Flame, and even older stuff like Sacrifice-era Black Widow and Halloween -era Outsider , this seriously gets the highest possible recommendation from me.