Deception – The Mire (Rob Mules Records)

Technically accomplished and demonstrating a firm grasp of melodic DM dynamics, 2018’s Path Of Trees helped put Art Of Deception – as they were then called – on the extreme metal map.

But the Stavanger death metallers have broadened their horizons this time around.

The Mire is steeped in the grand symphonics of acts like Septic Flesh and Dimmu Borgir, with the band’s crisp, blackened death assault underscored and enlivened with bombastic orchestration. It’s light years ahead of the band’s 2016 debut, Shattered Delusions, and shows the band are unafraid to take the next evolutionary step… and take some risks.

Deception’s dramatic vision is revealed as soon as intro song Remission powers up, but it manifests in all its glory around Return Of The Baphomet, a track powerful enough to be heard in the very depths of the underworld.

Institution Ablaze continues in a similar fashion, merging Swedeath fretwork with theatrical flourishes to exhilarating effect.

Elsewhere, the quartet venture further into prog metal territory – Grasp Of Lilith and 10-minute plus closer Asphyxia being prime examples – and that’s a place where guitarists Sindre Wathne Johnsen and Hans Jakob Bjørheim can really shine.  

Indeed, much of Deception’s transformation can be attributed to the talented pair’s dazzling contributions. Leads soar and frets blaze across the band’s third album, and their axework rarely plays second fiddle to the album’s symphonic elements.

Yet for all Deception’s progression, at the heart of The Mire is a wellspring of malevolent, death metal, around which swarms of Hypocrisy-style riffs lie in wait, ready to bite and sting. Forest Of Demise and Internal Breeding, for instance, both open with a flurry of lacerating hooks. They’re infectious songs, built with the confidence of a band who have found their groove.

Norway’s best kept secret has been revealed… and it will drag you into The Mire.