Finally, after an inexplicably long five-year hiatus, Enochian Crescent return with their third album, Black Church -- yet another unfailingly eccentric, deeply esoteric, and wholly unpredictable interpretation of black metal's outer fringes. Comprising nothing less than a self-devised code of philosophy and spirituality broken down into three parts, Black Church's diverse music and half-explicit, half-nebulous lyrics, are as mutually ambitious as almost anything that the genre's leading avant-garde set (Ulver, Enslaved Arcturus, etc.) have dared attempt in the mid-'00s. Wallowing in anti-Christian imagery -- along with textbook examples of laser-fast guitar picking and spat/scratched vocals -- is arguably the album's only sin toward black metal cliché. Yet, to label it merely satanic would really be as absurd as calling it a religion -- progressively heretical is perhaps more like it. Anyway, as to the music itself, opening number "Tatan" sounds almost comical because of its titular gang-shouts, but subsequent offerings like "Tango Absinto" and "Tridents Clash" quickly quell any additional snickering with their sharp, clean, surprisingly melodic and astoundingly memorable forays back and forth over the accepted boundaries of black metal. The same is true for "Chalk Face" and the title track (which elicit thoughts of similarly adventurous Enslaved albums like Isa and Ruun); the folk-laden "Hendekagrammaton" (which flirts with crossover disaster much like Finnish compatriots Finntroll and Moonsorrow); and the choirs evoking deep woodland spirits in "The Imperfect Vision" (as did Green Carnation and In the Woods...). Then there are incomparable elements like the quietly introspective breakdown in "Thousand Shadows," the desperately morose melodies of "Ghost of Saturn," and the discreet symphonics used throughout à la Viking metal forefathers Bathory, before them. Plenty of parallels in other words, but none as overwhelming as Enochian Crescent's facility at melding and diverging from them when needed -- here's hoping that the sequel to this masterful comeback won't take nearly as long to arrive.