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In the Centurian canon “Liber Zar Zax” is special because it is the only record to feature Zi Xul members Jerry Brouwer (vocals, bass guitar) and Oskar Van Paradijs (lead guitar). Prior to the pre-production sessions Seth van de Loo (vocals), and Patrick Boleij (bass guitar) had taken their leave in order to prioritize their own band Severe Torture. It is the last to feature co-founders Rob Oorthuis (lead guitar) and Wim van der Valk (drums) on the same recording as a schism would occur within the ranks leading to the band’s sudden dissolution at the height of its power. “Liber Zar Zax” is the crowning moment of Holland’s most promising death metal force.

Centurian is, or rather was, the embodiment of Chaos

At this juncture Centurian was in its strongest constellation with two unified creative camps working towards a common objective. Brouwer and Van Paradijs shared the same strong interest in occult subjects and Thelemic Chaos Magick as did Oorthuis and Van der Valk. The strong anti-religious sentiment remains intact but a handful of songs are now directly dealing with the Thelemic Chaos concept that set Centurian apart from its contemporaries. The recruiting of Brouwer and Van Paradijs brought Zi Xul levels of intensity to Centurian’s already whirlwind assault. Oorthuis and Van der Valk obviously became better at their respective instruments in the intervening years. “Liber Zar Zax” reflects the lineup change in the sense that it takes what the band did previously and pushes it onto the next level. Centurian outplayed its popular American inspirations Deicide and Morbid Angel, musically and conceptually, as both of who were experiencing bouts of creative fatigue when the album was originally released.

‘The Reading (Zarzax unto Zax)’ cites an incantation from the Liber Pyramidos. Why ‘Hell At Last’, a track from the “Of Purest Fire” demo/EP, was re-recorded for this session remains puzzling. Its space had been put to better use by the inclusion of an entirely new track. ‘Feeding Flesh To the Vortex’ was the sole instrumental Centurian ever attempted. While the album deals thematically with the Chaos subject, the majority of the record still concerns itself with other subjects, chief among them a seething anti-religious sentiment (‘Heading For Holocaust’, ‘Hell At Last’, ‘Ritually Slaughtered For Satan’, ’Speech Of the Serpent’, ‘Fornicating the Nazarene’) and the Roman empire (‘Colosseum Of Blood’). The Chaos theme itself is only explored in ‘The Reading (ZarZax Unto Zax)’, ‘Conjuration For Choronzon’, ‘Committed to Hell’ and ‘Dead Black Nucleus’.

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One of the highlights of the record is the lead/solo work of guitarists Oorthuis and Van Paradijs. Both complement each other’s style and feed off one another in terms of riffing. While none of the soloing is particularly shabby or underdeveloped ‘The Reading (ZarZax unto Zax)’, ‘Heading For Holocaust’, ‘Ritually Slaughtered For Satan’, ‘Conjuration For Choronzon’ and ‘Speech Of the Serpent’ stand out as definite peaks of the album in terms of guitar acrobacy and – soloing. Highlighting the amazing guitar work is the stellar performance of drummer Wim Van der Valk. His impressive chops can be heard especially on ‘Heading For Holocaust’, ‘Ritually Slaughtered For Satan’, ‘Speech Of the Serpent’ and ‘Fornicating the Nazarene’. Regretfully he would disappear into anonymity for over a decade following his starmaking appearance here. Brouwer’s switch from guitar to bass is commendable, although he hardly gets to shine.

It is however the combination of Deicide’s primal blasphemous fury and Morbid Angel’s technical finesse that make Centurian, and this record in particular, as incendiary as it is. Coupled with the ramped with speed and better arrangements Centurian, as their South American contemporaries Rebaelliun, proved that not only Hate Eternal and Krisiun should be considered leaders within the then-nascent modern death metal scene. It was the thrash – and formative death metal architecture within the music of Centurian (and Rebaelliun too, for that matter) that set them apart from Krisiun. Additionally were both van de Loo and Brouwer far more expressive frontmen compared to Alex Camargo. The Chaos thematic offers respite from the barrage of antireligious vitriol, and it is somewhat disappointing that the record only explores it in a handful of songs. Wim Van der Valk absolutely dominates on this album, which makes it all the sadder that the world never got a proper successor wherein he finally could claim his place among the extreme metal drumming elite. He certainly deserves any and all accolades for his work here.

For the first and only time Centurian recorded at Dutch death metal factory Franky’s Recording Kitchen with Berthus Westerhuys producing and drum engineering by Peter de Koster. The change of studios finally gave Centurian the appropriate production. The guitar tone is crunchy and textured, the bass guitar is fittingly thick and the drums sound commanding for the first time. “Liber Zar Zax” is the last of three Centurian records with very similar artwork. The digital artwork for the final album of its classic line-up stint was rendered by much in-demand Polish graphic designer Jacek Wiśniewski, who had made a name for himself in the industry by providing artwork for established genre pillars as Krisiun, Monstrosity and Vader. It is impressive from an artistic, and technical point of view. Conceptually however it is merely a digital reproduction of the “Choronzonic Chaos Gods” blood canvas with more of a fixation on the arachnid creature, swathed in the blazing fire that featured prominently on the layout of Zi Xul’s 1997 independently released “Beyond Human Rewarding” demo tape.

“Liber Zar Zax” was released in Europe through French label imprint Listenable Records in 2001 as the first of a three-album contract. It was licensed to Olympic Recordings and Century Media Records for North America which resulted in festival appearances. “Liber Zar Zax” is the logical evolution of the “Choronzonic Chaos Gods” sound. The writing is further tightened up, and the last vestiges of the band not too distant thrash metal past have been duly ironed out. In terms of sheer intensity Centurian could measure itself with North/South American acts such as Hate Eternal, Krisiun and Rebaelliun. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any one that the latter sported Centurian shirts in the promo shots of its “Burn the Promised Land” debut. Unfortunately upon reaching its creative apex Centurian briefly reaped the benefits of its elevated profile before mounting interpersonal conflicts eventually led to the band’s abrupt demise.

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“The Apostate”, the second of two albums that Luciferion released in its decade-long existence, finally arrived nearly a decade after its awe-inspiring debut. It is more of a glorified EP than an actual genuine full length release. While most of the new material of this record was written in 1995-96, it wouldn’t be recorded in earnest until 2001. A few superficialities differentiate it from the band’s musically impressive, but lyricaly rather corny debut of 1994. “The Apostate” in essence is a more refined, polished and ambitious take on what “Demonication (The Manifest)” already did 9 years prior.

On the visual end of things a few notable differences have occured in the interim. The prominent pentagram is removed from the logo in order to emphasize the band’s lyrical maturation. Accordingly “The Apostate” abandons the anti-religious sentiment of “Demonication (The Manifest)”, and replaces it with lyrics about individualism, self-realization and liberation from dogmatic thinking. The lyrics avoid the trappings of the anti-religious ramblings of the previous effort – and are much more interesting for that reason alone. Sprinkled through out the new tracks are samples from the 1998 science-fiction thriller “Dark City”. The artwork, rendered this time around by Dark Tranquillity member Niklas Sundin, is redolent of Salvador Dali’s “Christ Of Saint John Of the Cross”.

2e526d29da53Most of the line-up from “Demonication (The Manifest)” make their return here. The vocals are once again handled by Michael Nicklasson. All guitars, keyboards and backing vocals were done by founder Wojtek Lisicki. Rounding out the line up is bass guitarist Martin Fürangen, an original member of the band who wasn’t able to partake in the “Demonication (The Manifest)” recording sessions due to education obligations in the US. Making his record debut with Luciferion is drummer Hans Nilsson. In comparison the preceding record the keyboards feature more prominently than before, and the increase in speed is notable. None of it ever hampers Lisicki’s musicality or fluency in combining several aspects of different genres at a whirlwind pace. The title track alone is over 9 minutes long, and divided into six chapters. That “The Apostate” sounds impressive would be an understatement, even though it isn’t a fitting eulogy to the band.

The project was put together at Metalking Domain, Lisicki’s home studio, over a four month period during 2001 and 2003. “The Apostate” was completed in various intervals over a three-year period. The drums, rhythm guitar and bass guitar were recorded in 2001, guitar solos and synthesizers followed in 2002, lyrics and vocals were finalized and tracked in 2003. The band split in 2003, shortly after the release of “The Apostate”. After amazing the world with its stunning debut “Demonication (The Manifest)” it is rather unfortunate that Luciferion exited the metal world by what appears to be a contract filler release. “The Apostate” had the potential to be so much more than it actually ended up being. Part new album, and part demo compilation it attempts to be a fan package of sorts, but only when one is feeling particularly charitable. What many fans rightly pined for was a full-blown second album, and not this bit of random odds and ends. The new material of “The Apostate” cannot redeem its archival second half.

LUCIFERIONWojteksolo“The Apostate” consists of two parts. The first are four new songs constituting the “The Apostate” concept. The second and final part is a remastered version of the band’s independently distributed 1994 demo tape. Separating these two chapters is an absolutely terrible and unnecessary rendition of the Celtic Frost classic ‘Circle Of the Tyrants’. This space would have been better used for a new original song. While the new material is impressive on its own the haphazard construction of the record takes away much of the initial impact that the new material has. Luciferion has always had a knack for covering classic metal bands, and the Celtic Frost cover is no different – but it begs the question of whether its presence here is wanted, or warranted. Surely there must have been other avenues to compile these renditions in a more fitting manner. A posthumous compilation of cover tracks, demo – and promo material would have been more than ideal to celebrate its decade-long career, with or without a visual counterpart.

An entire record was written in MIDI format during 1996-98, but it is unclear where that pre-produced material ended up. As internet lore has it the material was too technical, over-the-top and difficult to play for the seasoned veterans Lisicki worked with in past sessions. During the band’s hiatus Wojtek Lisicki had also written and arranged (but not finalized) an astral symfo black metal album in MIDI format. In all likelihood the latter probably was featured on the Against the Plagues’ independent 2007 debut “Architecture Of Oppression” (later re-issued in 2010 as “Decoding the Mainframe”), of which Lisicki was part. It sounds very close to this Luciferion album in terms of music, lyrics and overall imagery/philosophy. Concludingly, Lisicki had for the most part completed a third album, a grindcore album in vein of “World Downfall” Terrorizer, also in MIDI format. What became of that grind-oriented effort remains a mystery to this day.