While it is fair after oh-so-many band and project ventures to call Nicklas “Terror” Rudolfsson (of Sacramentum, Heavydeath, Deathwitch fame, to list but a few of his outlets) a jack of all trades, one name has remained constant throughout his more or less 30 years as a mainstay in extreme metal: Runemagick.
Founded in 1990 (at first as Desiderius, temporarily sans “k”) as a short-lived solo affair that ended four demos and three years later, Nicklas took up the moniker for a full band that still underwent countless line-up changes with several well-known names from the Swedish scene going through the revolving door.
What it is today has seen members from bands such as Dissection, Nifelheim or Katatonia within its folds but now circles around its leader and his wife Emma. In the course of steadily releasing quality material, the combo collaborated with label-heavyweights Century Media Records and underground operations such as Norway’s Aftermath Music alike, all the while staying true to its original brand of doom death.
A longer period of silence from 2007 on ended with archival demo releases and another full-length in the shape of “Evoked from Abysmal Sleep” (2018) that showed the four-piece at a new peak both creatively and performance-wise. Now after hardly one year, they not only deliver their next EP but also said album’s successor, conveying a sense of regained regularity.
And indeed, the four-tracks on “The Opening of Dead Gates” are an epitome of constancy, displaying Runemagick’s old strengths in connection with arguably their strongest songwriting to date. The quartet enjoyed the luxury of being able to choosing from several versions of the title track, another eventually also gracing the album
“We think everything belongs together,” says the front man regarding the release of two records at once. “The whole material from the recording session was longer than we planned. “‘The Opening Of Dead Gates’ is the catchiest tune and has a fitting title to begin with.”
As for the lyrical content, Rudolfsson generally wants to leave it to the listener to interpret what he writes for themselves, so the stomping ‘Requiem Beyond the Stars’ could adress “the sleeping masses, the herd of sheep, so to say, but also those unknown to us who existed in other dimensions hundreds of thousands of years ago.”
At the centre doubtlessly stands twelve-minute monster ‘Wolves of Nocturnal Light’, drawing as much from Terror’s contemporaries in the early Scandinavian movement as from more epic, older neighbours like Candlemass or Bathory. (Moon Is The Portal To Death - Part II). Needless to say it is exclusive to the EP as all the other tracks, the subtitle ‘Moon is the Portal to Death – Part II’ hinting at yet another composition that had to be held back; it will be released on a split with the US band Chthonic Deity.
Whereas the EP crystallizes what Runemagick are about in a rather compact way, the album is a sprawling celebration of lethal doom that leaves no wishes unfulfilled. From the baleful opener ‘Remnants Of The Old’ on, Nicke commands the scene with his guttural, articulate trademark growl, the group then heading into the dirge-like title song with a staggering bulldozer riff.
Right up to the closing ‘After the Sepulchral Lava’ with its melodic allusions to older stuff from the band’s repertoire and acoustic outro, “Into Desolate Realms” impressively proves just how diverse this style of metal can be. There’s ‘Sorceress Reburned’ with its eerie dissonances, a masterful instrumental segue from the atmospheric ‘Decay to Nothing’ into the almost playful ‘In the Sign of the Dragon Star’ and even “fast” (relatively speaking) fare such as the hammering ‘Necromancer of the Red Sun’.
Which such strong material in their hands, Runemagick now don’t want to leave anything to coincidence while, of course, taking it all slowly as usual. “The album is most important for us this year,” concludes the leader. “We will also play occasional gigs when we have the opportunity and see what the future may hold for us.. I can only guess but don’t thing it is impossible that we will record at least one more album. Nothing is decided yet, and now we are going to focus on our journey into desolate realms …”