Seattle's Book of Black Earth was easily the standout opener on the recent Watain tour. The band balanced out the headliner's spectacular live show with a brutish presence that required no makeup, animal blood or flashy banners. BOBE's second full-length Horoskopus (following the overlooked Feast on 20 Buck Spin) comes across much the same way. The band's black-around-the-edges death metal feels regal but not pompous; TJ Cowgill brings his lyrics, centered on Christianity's roots in astrology, back down to earth with a gravelly roar. Those lyrics should be studied by death and black metal bands the world over -- they approach anti-Christianity from a very different (and non-academic) perspective than Satan-hailers are used to.
There's a compactness to the main riffs in "Total Control" and "Horoskripture" that hails from the early architects of Scandinavian death, melodic and non. The best tracks on Horoskopus leaven their riff simplicity with a grander design, like "God of War," which carries a heavy load up the doom mountain before tumbling back down in sputtering Behemoth blastbeats. THAT's drama. Some writers have complained about the underuse of keyboardist Hank Guthrie, but I think his organ beds enhance the mood without compromising Horoskopus's base rawness. You don't need anything to soothe the ears when your very band name suggests scorched-ness.