Acheronian Dirge were already masters of Colorado black metal before this EP but after listening to “Themes of Desperation Realized” you probably need to put them on the top of the contemporary black metal band list. This EP is a huge leap forward from their already great last album. “Themes” has mastered almost everything that their last album was close to gripping: the song writing has become more impassioned, the compositions smoother, the moods more impressive and consistent. Even with the variety of riffs that the EP has to offer, the transitions always seem to fit exactly and sound carefully planned.
This EP is a concept release in that there are four songs that explore the themes of the four horsemen of the apocalypse while connecting them to the four seasons of the year. The white horse of pestilence and sickness is connected to the downpour of spring rains, while the red horse of war is under the intense heat of the summer, as the black horse of famine is symbolic of the dying earth in the fall, and of course to round it all off in the dead of winter stands the pale horse of death. Each of the songs noticeably sound like its own title. Track two, “The Red Horse of Summers Heat,” really exudes a hellish heat and frantic atmosphere of summer and apocalyptic war.
On the subject of the titles of the songs, they each only mention the horses of the apocalypse, and not the horsemen. The lyrics to the songs also place more importance on the horses than their riders, which is an interesting twist on the usual anthropocentric point of view. It’s as if the riders are only there to aid in the horses’ mission.
The key word here on this EP is ‘apocalyptic’ because the music can be compared to nothing else. Acheronian Dirge’s dissonant, yet surprisingly melodic, riffs are the foundation for this album, yet the screeching vocals and intricate drum work are also heavily relied upon. Each song contains more of a theme than a chorus or verse structure. Where ever the song wanders it usually comes back to that melody which grounds the piece, yet the songs definitely do not give in to boring song structure. Sporadically throughout the EP there are extremely beautiful acoustic passages, which serve as a nice break from the violence, while not sacrificing any despair. Some of the songs have a lumbering feel, especially the final song “The Pale Horse Descends Upon Winter.” This song slows the album down as if the earth is coming to a complete stop because of this death horse.
This album is the complete musical package. The first song opens with the theme that belongs to the last song. Many of the songs transition into the next seamlessly, and offer up a hint of the melody of the next one. This release hits near musical perfection, in black metal or any other genre. It is a shame to call this an EP because the input and output are so immense that it earns album status. “Themes of Desperation Realized” is sure to be frequently revisited by any black metal fan, through their speakers or in their own heads.