CURSE UPON A PRAYER is a Finnish black metal band founded in Tornio in 2010; “Infidel” is their third full length, released on April 10th, 2020, via Saturnal Records. The first feature that catches the eye (and the ears, I would say), is the strong anti-Islamic attitude in the lyrics, as an underlying yet explicit theme that characterizes this album, finding its peak thanks to a perfect match in music and words, where a clever use of middle Eastern melodies, especially as intros and outros, spices things up and proves that the band does not fear the risk of misjudgment. Although musically speaking there are a lot of influences of classic black metal, in particular in the riffs, the metrics, and the colorful singing style, CURSE UPON A PRAYER manages to blend the various elements in a non-predictable nor boring way.
“Call to Prayer” has an eerie yet sacred atmosphere and works perfectly as an instrumental opener, introducing the listener to a more violent soundscape right afterwards. The title track is a furious and hateful anti-religious hymn, where melodic riffs and high-pitched screams nicely blend in a mid-tempo pace. “Taste Ye the Penalty of Burning” has a more traditional black metal vibe in terms of riffing, fast pace, and vocals, and all in all it is reminiscent of some Finnish acts speaking of the dominant melodic features in the riffs, which sound really great.
“Haram” opens with an otherworldly growl, followed by an intense combo of drums and guitars, where the frantic chant in a high-pitched scream style truly conveys a sense of hatred and contempt. “The Portrait of Iblis” has an acoustic intro where an hypnotic bass sound provides the whole thing a rather unusual touch, at least when compared to the rest of the album. The vocal part is whispered and the instrumental part does not have a real structure, making the track sound like some sort of an interlude.
The sixth tune is called “Al-Masih ad-Dajjal” and shows a good mixture of epicness and grooviness that, combined with a rockish vibe in the drum-work, make it, in my opinion, the highlight on “Infidel.” The vocals are excellent in each one of their variations and the short acoustic outro works as a proper icing on the cake. The following song, “Prophetic Poison,” due to its furious pace paired with a vaguely sad and dramatic vibe in the guitar work, is slightly reminiscent of some classics from the ʻ90s. The dynamic vocals provide inner variety and the unexpectedly soft outro give the tune some extra flavor.
“Fitna” shows a further level of versatility in terms of vocal style, somewhere in between a whisper and a growl, with some screams to increase the sense of hostility. The last song on “Infidel” is “Jahannam,” an acoustic ballad that well-balances the storm of hate and bitterness previously displayed, but it’s still full of scorn in its morbid mood.
CURSE UPON A PRAYER surely accomplished a further stage of maturity thanks to a keen eye in terms of composition and an undisputed talent in the use of different extreme vocal styles, which also proves that Finnish black metal has still a lot to give. The use of powerful images and controversial topics is quite common in black metal since its birth, but keeping high quality standards has not always been a priority. This is not the case, because CURSE UPON A PRAYER is a clear example of uncompromising integrity when it comes to the provocative nature of the genre, combined with a solid background in terms of skills and, let me say, feeling for the music as a form of self-expression on a deeper level.
I am definitely looking forward to the next chapter.
Written by Licia Mapelli
- Call to Prayer
- Taste Ye the Penalty of Burning
- The Portrait of Iblis
- Al-Masih ad-Dajjal
- Prophetic Poison
The Cursed Order