The enduring beauty of Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism

immortal-diabolical_fullmoon_mysticismThis week I have mostly been listening to…. Immortal – Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism

Less often cited as a classic than the follow up, Pure Holocaust, Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism is still to my mind one of the gems of second wave black metal. Some of the transitions between riffs/themes are a bit ragged, and the drummer is clearly not up to much of a standard playing-wise, but there’s great charm in this album, and some real magic about the riff-craft at work on it.

Riff-wise, this album is not fully black metal, but borrows heavily from death metal, although the band covers the fact with a cavernous production and droning under parts. Unlike the straightforward melodic approach of black metal the bulk of these riffs are composed in two parts: a modal/chromatic melodic part that becomes more detailed with iteration, and a counter-part that responds to the first idea at a lower register with an oppositional retort. ‘Epic’ moments are generally more straightforwardly black metal – single-motif melodic ideas with plenty of yearning, emotive harmonies.

The interplay between the epic bits and the controlled-chaos parts are really where this album shows what it’s about – an icy warrior outlook that turns whirlwinds of strife into the joy of the fight and the triumph of cosmic forces.

Musically this is also where things can become a bit rough sounding. Sometimes it works really well – Like around the 3/4 minute mark in “A Perfect Vision of the Rising Northland,” where themes from the chaotic/violent moments intermingle and then separate again to create an excellent fist-in-the-air, hair-flying-in-the-wind sort of moment. Other times, there’s only a steep drop off from one theme to the next; which is a little less satisfying even if the production does a decent job of smoothing over the edges (see certain moments in “Call of the Wintermoon” and “Unholy Forces of Evil” – less obvious when you’re just letting the mood of the music take you along, but a bit more noticeable when you’re listening more intently. Contrarily though, “Unholy Forces of Evil” is probably a better track on the whole than “A Perfect Vision”…).

This style of riff writing disappears somewhat on the following two (more melodic-riff centred) albums, but makes a return on Blizzard Beasts – which, although also a good album, wears the death metal influence in less of an understated way, taking away from some of the mysteriousness that made the first album special. Unlike with some of the other prominent Nordic second-wavers (Darkthrone, Mayhem, Burzum) I can’t immediately think of anyone who successfully and completely took on Immortal’s early riff writing style (although Averse Sefira’s latter two albums sound like they might’ve been at least partly influenced). Perhaps this is down to the more technical/complex nature of the band’s sound when compared to that of their peers, and the hyperactive, difficult-to-repeat playing style of Demonaz. As well as being a quality album then, Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism is also an interesting hint at where black metal might’ve gone had it stuck closer to death metal ideas of riff creation.

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12 thoughts on “The enduring beauty of Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism

  1. bitterman says:

    I agree, this album is closer to death metal in a lot of ways (Unholy Forces of Evil is basically Morbid Angel in the middle and the atmospheric bit is cut off by fast riffing in a semi-ridiculous manner). This is another band that was killed off by outside factors (Demonaz’ carpal tunnel). Unfortunately, they play nothing off Blizzard Beasts live and either abridge or mutilate one song off their first or second album to better fit their current objective of being Hammerheart-era Bathory with constipated rasp vocals (like a happier version of Hades).

  2. Reginald says:

    “… completely took on Immortal’s early riff writing style (although Averse Sefira’s latter two albums sound like they might’ve been at least partly influenced).”

    Certainly you mean IMMOLATION’s early riff writing style…?

    1. rob jones says:

      No, I do mean Immortal, although I can hear very clearly the Immolation influence on AS.

      The point I’m making however is that Immortal’s early style IS very death metal, and, as an additional point, actually quite similar to Immolation’s.

  3. Carg says:

    This article is exactly the kind of material the site needs more of… which is exactly what we’ve been saying for months. More ‘core-bashing, more old school reviews, and less cocksucking, circle-jerking bullshit (“listen to deathjazz because their fans will like our site”). God, it feels good to be a martyr.

    For me, DFM is one of the crown jewels of Black Metal, and I think you’ve summed up its high and low points in an exemplary fashion. I’ve always loved the “deathier” feeling of this and their earlier recordings, even though the majesty encapsulated in PH is without par in the Black Metal world. There’s something explicitly morbid about this release which seems to have been stripped from the repertoire of those bands that decided to be “anti-Death Metal” (e.g. Burzum, Emperor, etc.). Perhaps the future of extreme metal lies in the reintegration of “Death” and “Black” styles: Morbid Majesty (or “Emperor’s Return”, haha!).

  4. Unholy Confessor says:

    I haven’t listened to this album in forever. Definitely due for listening to this soon!

  5. Syd says:

    Agree that this is one of the classics of black metal, even though it is usually only seen as a lead up to what followed.

    Never thought of the riffs as being overtly death-metal-ish however, just thought of it as kind of ‘technical’ or ‘intricate’, but yeah I guess that’s pretty much a death metal thing.

    Awesome cover art by the way. Does anyone know where the shot was taken? looks like some old ruin.

    1. Lord Mosher of the Solitary Pit says:

      I think Varg said in an interview, that was a place where they (Abbath, Varg and others) used to hang out and roll play Dungeons & Dragons stuff!

    2. Carg says:

      Isn’t it taken at the same ruins as are shown in the Call of the Wintermoon video?

    3. fallot says:

      There is more of a rhythmic element to the riffs (though they are predominantly melodic, keeping it classic black metal) and use of syncopation. I always felt like there was a bit of heavy metal to the riffs and songwriting as well.

    4. fallot says:

      `Awesome cover art by the way. Does anyone know where the shot was taken? looks like some old ruin.`

      Lyse kloster ruins like Carg said.

  6. BillHopkins says:


    Great album. Had some good times listening to this. Good to see it get some page time! Everything until Blizzard Beasts roars, in it’s own style. My favourite is Battles in the North for it’s blasting, grinding yet melodic intensity. Interestingly, I think ‘Necular Ravens Winter’ off Blizzard Beasts is quite possible one of the most arresting death metal song written. I wish they went this direction into superior and unique frozen, technical death metal instead of a circus show (literally live).

    1. Carg says:

      Agreed. Blizzard Beasts 2 would’ve been as groundbreaking as At the Heart of Winter was retreading old territory.

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