Friday, September 12, 2008

Immortal - Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism (1992)


Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism is the first full-length from Norwegian Black Metal band Immortal. The album was recorded in Grieghallen Studios, around the same time as Det Som Engang Var, and produced by Pytten. The sound is very similar to that of early Burzum, due to similar production. There is a strong Bathory influence here, particularly from Blood Fire Death. This is evident from the opening moments of the album. As with so many great bands, my first exposure to Immortal came from "The Haunted Mansion". One Winter night, I heard the song "The Sun No Longer Rises", from Pure Holocaust and I wasted little time in acquiring that album. Some time later, while in Oslo, I picked up their debut L.P. and it wasn't long before I had a new favorite Immortal album. It was a close call, but songs like "Cryptic Winterstorms" left no doubt as to which album I preferred and it accompanied me on many late night drives through desolate areas. Often, I seemed to have the roads all to myself and had this album blasting as the cold winds blew in through the open window, blowing through my hair and freezing my fingers. Peaceful times... Abbath Doom Occulta, Demonaz Doom Occulta and Armagedda came together to create a very memorable album of grim Black Metal. While the following album usually tends to get the most praise, I feel that this one is an undeniable classic and should not be overlooked.

The album opens with a short intro that is very reminiscent of Bathory, especially with the sound of the winds and the acoustic guitar. Already, you can feel the icy hands of Winter taking hold.

"The Call of the Wintermoon" unleashes the fury from the north, as the fast tremolo riffs and blasting drums rage forth like an arctic storm. The riff is simple yet very effective. In no time, the tempo changes and Armagedda employs a very oldschool drumbeat, typical of 80s bands like Venom and Mercyful Fate. Abbath's screams are noticeably different than the severely grim croaking sound that he would utilize on the next album. I actually prefer this style as it seems more natural. There is a coldness created here as well as a sense of doom. The solo is very well done and I wish more Black Metal bands found ways to fit decent solos into their music. The song evokes imagery of being summoned by the full moon for battle in the cold Winter night.

"Unholy Forces of Evil" is next and begins with an oldschool style as well as Abbath's possessed vocals. Demonaz's guitar riffs have an sense of something ancient and produce images of old, forgotten tombs and battlefields littered with corpses long dead. The song features some very 80s-based riffs, throughout most of the song, but also some faster parts with the typical tremolo riffing of Norwegian Black Metal.

"Cryptic Winterstorms" begins with a cold, mournful acoustic guitar as the song begins. The song is mid-paced and carries an epic feeling. The acoustic guitar appears again, throughout the song, and the main melody is very mournful. This song is reminiscent of Bathory and Burzum, without sounding too close to either one. This is, absolutely, my favorite Immortal song ever and is included on a mix tape I made for my car, somewhere between Darkthrone's "Paragon Belial" and Burzum's "Black Spell of Destruction". The solos are perfectly done and Abbath's vocals add a lot to the atmosphere. His screams could be described as very wild and animalistic as compared to later albums.

Following this epic masterpiece is "Cold Winds of Funeral Dust". This song begins slowly and includes some thundering drums. This is pure oldschool Black Metal, and could have easily been released in 1989 or so. The pace is similar to something you would find on Blood Fire Death, yet there are enough harmonies layered on top of that that give it a distinct Norwegian sound. Abbath's vocals are evil as Hell, here. Near the end, the song speeds up to a furious pace, somewhat similar to something found on Gorgoroth's debut album, before fading out.

"Blacker Than Darkness" continues the album and starts with a mid-paced riff. In a short time, the song speeds up to a thrashy pace that would not be out of place on The Return... The riffs are very memorable, as every song in here possesses an identity of its own. There is no filler here.

The album ends with "A Perfect Vision of the Rising Northland". This epic song begins with a somber accoustic piece that leads into a very evil tremolo melody as the drums slowly build up and the song takes off at a pace quite like that of the title track from Blood Fire Death. An intense spoken word part precedes Abbath's vocals, slowly appearing like some ghoul rising from a forbidden crypt. While Pure Holocaust is like a journey through the frozen lands of the North, Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism seems to explore only the immediate area surrounding some lost Medieval castle, inhabited by spirits of pure evil, as they roam the surrounding forests and mountains, never straying too far. There is a sense of dread and melancholy in this song as it takes the listener on a long and dark journey. Late in the song, there is a slight bit of keyboard use, accompanying a spoken word part. It is done very well and only serves to add to the atmosphere as Abbath then screams:

"This Winter is forever!"

Indeed, that would be glorious... As the song continues, evil and yet sorrowful melodies inspire visions of another world where the sun freezes to dust. The same acoustic melody that began the song then returns to end the album. In a way, the title is very appropriate, as one gets the impression that only a brief vision was allowed and yet there is so much more. If only the barrier can be crossed...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Emperor - In the Nightside Eclipse (1994)


In the Nightside Eclipse is the definitive Emperor album. It lacks the poor production that plagued Wrath of the Tyrant, while still possessing some of the necro element. This was recorded in Grieghallen during the seventh full moon of 1993. It was produced by Pytten, known for his work with Mayhem, Burzum and Immortal. The cover featured artwork from Necrolord, who did the covers for the first two Dissection albums, among countless others.

After a brief intro, "Into the Infinity of Thoughts" explodes with icy cold riffs that seem to take some influence from Mayhem. In fact, the album is dedicated to Euronymous. The fast tremolo riffs, blasting drums and unrestrained vocals strive to create a soundscape of darkness and evil. The one main drawback is that the keyboards are too loud in the mix, and tend to drown everything else out, to a degree. Also, I think that a lot of the atmosphere created through using keyboards could have been done with the guitars. Actually, that touches on another point: the album would lack a lot of its atmosphere without the synth, which is not good. The synth should add to the atmosphere rather than provide the majority of it. Musically, underneath the synth, a lot of the riffs and drumming reminds me of Immortal's Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism. At any rate, the first song does possess icy riffs and an epic feel. The quiet parts, with the dark guitar melodies and the sound of freezing winds drag the listener into the world depicted on the cover.

"Cosmic Keys To My Creations and Times" begins with a masterful tremolo riff that should have lasted a bit longer. As the blastbeats increase in speed and the keyboards become more dominant, this riff is lost. Actually, everything underneath the synth seems lost for a while, with the exception of the hateful vocals. Once the song slows down again, and the synth allows the guitars to breathe once more, it is easier to be drawn into the darkness being created. However, I can't help but wonder how this would sound if the guitars were much higher in the mix. The tempo slows down, near the end of the song, and this is one of the more memorable moments, as the guitar riff carries it along.

Next is "Beyond the Great Vast Forest". In various places on the album, one will find sections that seem to regress back to the more necro times of Wrath of the Tyrant, creating mental imagery of blackened dungeons. An appropriate sentiment, since much of the music from that demo was rearranged and used here. It is almost difficult to notice as the overpowering synth takes command, early on. The extra lead harmonies added to the slower section really help the atmosphere. During its best moments, this L.P. is like the cold air of winter, blowing down from the snow-capped mountaintops, awaiting the end of the world. The band manages to create an epic, somewhat apocalyptic feeling, at times.

"Towards the Pantheon" follows and begins very quietly, creating an eerie and uneasy feeling. Ihsahn opens with a very lengthy, almost inhuman and breathless, scream that stretches on forever. There is an intense hatred, accompanied by a melancholy for the truth of this life, and a deep sense of longing for a different world... a realm of fantasy. Beneath the layers of synth is a song of pure Black Metal. As with the last song, this one takes the listener deeper and deeper into the darkness and creates a sense of urgency and panic.

Throughout In the Nightside Eclipse, the music itself is arranged in a cyclic style as riffs flow into riffs, then return to their original pattern at times; a kind of theme is established in each song that is repeated, while the songwriting will often move into other more complex patterns, melodies and structures. "The Majesty of the Nightsky" begins with fury and speed, yet a almost calming melody pervades and changes the mood. Emperor infuse a more Wagnerian aspect into their music, a sweeping narrative that is no true attempt at narrative, and lyrics and vocals simply amplify this. Lyrics are filled with a dark mysticism of death, evil and nature, a reveration of the true dark powers of the Earth. As the instruments stop, nothing is left but the synth melody and the sound of cold winds. A thunderous sound accompanies the return of the drums and the sorrowful guitar riffs join with a spoken words piece that imbues the listener with a sense of calm and relief. As if the blood is flowing freely from your veins as you gaze up into the darkness, soon to be liberated from this world. As the song speeds back up, it carried your spirit into the nothingness that surrounds.

"I Am the Black Wizards" begins with a brilliant tremolo riff, that is followed by something slower, reminiscent of Burzum, but only briefly. As the song gets going, the main theme returns and this is probably one of the best melodies on the album. The atmosphere gets even darker as the pace slows down. One gets images of dark towers where beings beyond feeble concepts of good and evil live in a manner that seems vile to any who possess normal "good" values, but a way that in of itself is not evil, simply a way of life. Late in the song, a new riff is introduced that is pure evil. It carries with it doom and the promise of agony. Hellish screams are followed by a serene, if not mournful, melody that finishes out the song.

"Inno A Satana" closes the album by introducing clean vocals, for the only time on this album. They are accompanied by wretched screams and some cold and lifeless riffs, hearkening back to early Burzum. As the riffs build up, the song ends with Ihsahn whispering:

"Inno a Satana."

In the Nightside Eclipse is definitely complex and it requires a decent attention span. This isn't something that can be absorbed by simply turning the CD on and continuing to do other things. This requires the focus of the listener. The music creates an atmosphere of reverence for the dark beauty of the night and the sinister shadows of the deep forests. Emperor manages to find solace in those things that humans dread the most. Ihsahn's demonic shrieks spread hatred as the riffs carry you higher and higher, toward the glowing moon high above, before suddenly letting you fall to the frozen earth below.

Emperor - Wrath of the Tyrant (1992)


I discovered Emperor, back in high school, hearing the song "Thus Spake the Nightspirit" on a college radio show called "The Haunted Mansion". This was not long after Anthems... was released. That would go on to be the first Emperor album I came across. It would be a year or so later before I discovered the earlier works; however, once I did I found myself much more drawn to them.

In 1991, Samoth and Ihsahn left Death Metal band Thou Shalt Suffer. They were joined by Mortiis. Probably being heavily inspired by bands such as Mayhem and Darkthrone, they abandoned their previous style to play primitive Black Metal In May 1992, they recorded Wrath of the Tyrant on a 4-track home studio. The sound quality is very necro, albeit needing some improvement. The songwriting shows a lot of promise and, in my opinion, Emperor would have done well to pursue this style rather than choosing to "progress" with each release.

The album begins with a short, creepy keyboard intro created by Samoth, leading into the first song, "Ancient Queen". The first thing that one notices is that the instruments seem to be down-tuned. Seeing as how Emperor jumped on the Black Metal bandwagon in a hurry, they may have forgotten to stop using the tuning from their Death Metal days. The sound is very harsh and crude, yet it has a deep low end in contrast with so many other Black Metal releases; Ihsahn's guitar and Mortiis's bass (both rather heavily distorted) have enough power to let the melodies break through the wall of static and invade the listener's ears without losing too much power. The drums are the lowest instrument in the mix, while Ihsahn's vocals are very loud and possess a lot of reverb. This song is decent enough, but nothing incredibly special.

"My Empire's Doom" is next, and is much more complex and layered; Samoth does a really nice job on drums, and Ihsahn's vocals follow the rhythm over the opening riff. This song would later find its way onto In the Nightside Eclipse, transforming into "Beyond the Great Vast Forest". Oddly, this version closes with a rather abrupt fade out, which makes one wonder if the closing riff that appears on the later version was added on or already existed at this stage but was cut off for some reason.

"Forgotten Centuries" begins with some indecipherable vocals and a fast tremolo-picked riff, before utilizing something more fitting of a Celtic Frost album. This is a short and complex song; featuring some of the most interesting riffs on the album. It's too bad that the sound quality isn't a little better. There is a nice, cold riff that would sound much better with more focus placed on the guitars and less low end.

"Night of the Graveless Souls" is another fast, straightforward Black Metal song. Again, there are some decent riffs that never seem to get enough room to breathe, due to the muffled sound and the down-tuning. It's not that I would prefer the over-produced sound of later Emperor albums, rather there needs to be more focus on the guitars. Transilvanian Hunger was recorded with similar equipment and yet it sounds far better. Also, I think there is a little too much reverb on the vocals. It only serves to drown out the rest of the music.

"Moon Over Kara-Shehr" has several killer riffs and equally numerous tonality and rhythm changes, though it features some Death Metal riffs that do not belong here as well as a continuation of the reverb overkill. As the album, or demo as it should be called, progresses it becomes more apparent that Emperor had not yet fully grasped what Black Metal was all about.

"Witches' Sabbath" is probably the best song on here. It begins with a mid-paced, oldschool riff and then Ihsahn's screaming actually helps the atmosphere, as well as the doom-filled riffs that follow. The haunting moans only add to this. Then, the song speeds up and one gets the impression that with clearer guitars (or the actual ability to have recorded a second guitar track) this would be a hell of a song.

Next is "Lord of the Storms". This is another short song, featuring only a couple of riffs. There is nothing really special about the song and it is, more or less, filler.

"Wrath of the Tyrant" begins with a horrific scream and decent primitive Black Metal riffs. After plodding along for a bit, there is a very promising riff that is gone all too soon. At this point, the drums seem to be the most dominant thing and little else can be heard. The song ends with an eerie spoken words part.

All in all, this demo shows quite a bit of promise, but it also displays the fact that Emperor had yet to shed their Death Metal tendencies, entirely. There are a handful of riffs that have no place on such a release, as well as several others that should have been expanded upon. This is raw and primitive and, despite its flaws, still more enjoyable to listen to then the last few albums they released.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mayhem - De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994)


Mayhem's first full-length, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, was one of the first Norwegian Black Metal albums that I picked up. I got this around the same time that I was acquiring my first albums from Darkthrone and Burzum. Some people seem to have a hard time digesting this album, but I was drawn to it, instantly. I didn't hear any of the material with Dead until a couple months later, so I had nothing else to compare it to; thus, I wasn't disappointed. Thanks to my best friend, I'd heard one song from this album already, and the melodies haunted my mind to the point where I had to get this album as soon as I could. One cold October night, my search was over and I retreated to the shadows to listen to this, in its entirety, by the light of black candles. I knew I was about to experience something amazingly dark and I wanted no distractions. The following night, I attempted to share this dark magic with a girl that I knew. She was so creeped out that she asked me to turn it off. Suffice it to say, she wasn't welcome in my home after that. But I didn't need her. I didn't need anyone. During a time of solitude, I had all that I really needed: music.

De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas shall forever stand as a seminal piece of Black Metal history. For six years, Euronymous laboured over this album. Riffs were worked on and then thrown away because they weren't dark and evil enough. The lineup changed, considerably, from Deathcrush. In 1988, Dead and Hellhammer joined the fold. After recording some rehearsal tracks and playing legendary gigs across Europe, in very obscure places, the band suffered setback after setback. Euronymous opened a shop, called Helvete, and was seen as somewhat of a mentor to the Norwegian Black Metal scene. Mayhem was the first Black Metal band in Norway, and they had the respect of the younger bands. However, the shop wasn't doing so well. His record label, Deathlike Silence Productions, released albums from Abruptum, Merciless and Burzum. He even re-released the Mayhem E.P., yet the label wasn't fairing much better than the shop. Dead, who had contributed so much, regarding the whole direction of the band, from lyrics to aesthetics, killed himself in April 1991. Shortly thereafter, Necrobutcher left the band. Euronymous was forced to sit in the background as the younger bands, such as Darkthrone, Burzum, Immortal and Emperor all released albums. As the others took the underground by storm, the members of Mayhem were living in poverty, too poor to even record their debut L.P.

Finally, in the summer of 1993, Mayhem entered Grieghallen Studios to record their masterpiece. Euronymous and Hellhammer were joined by Attila Csihar, from Hungarian Black Metal band Tormentor, and Varg Vikernes, of Burzum. Additional guitars were handled by Blackthorn. The Prince of Death had assembled quite a cast for this album. Sadly, for reasons only known to Varg, himself, Euronymous would not live to see his creation released. That would come only after his brutal demise. After the media blizzard died down and all of the hype faded away, nothing was left but the music. The music is what's important.

"Funeral Fog" bursts forth like the bitter cold winds of a Winter storm, with blasting drums, fast tremolo riffs and a haunting lead harmony, weaving throughout the controlled chaos. Attila's vocals can only be described as horrifyingly grim. The music is utterly dark and one can easily see that Euronymous took advantage of all the time he had to perfect every note.

"Freezing Moon" is next, and the title could not be more appropriate as this begins with one of the coldest riffs ever. As with the rest of the lyrics, these were written by Dead. They are all very morbid and possess an obsessive quality. They imbue the listener with darkness and fear, conveying the fragility of life and the ease with which it can end so quickly. The simplicity of the lyrics masks very dark and troubled depths and a yearning for peace which, unfortunately for Dead, only his demise could bring. As the song slows down, the atmosphere is that of doom and an inhuman bloodlust. Varg's bass lines can be heard clearly, at this point, as well. There is an eerie solo that suits the song, perfectly. Attila's tormented and possessed vocals and Dead's morbid lyrics make for a good match. The song speeds up once more, with the freezing riffs carrying it to its end.

The next song begins with more of the same cold and dark riffing, as the drums take a moment to build up. "Cursed In Eternity" was actually the first Mayhem song I ever heard, and I remember being drawn in by the haunting melodies, though the very grim vocals, droning on in an inhuman way, took another listen to fully grasp. Everything comes together to create an atmosphere of mortal terror. The riffs are so important to this album, yet Attila's dramatic vocal approach also aids greatly.

"Pagan Fears" starts out with a, somewhat, unorthodox rhythm. It sounds more like something from Deathcrush, yet this doesn't last very long. The song speeds up and Dead's dark tale unfolds. This album is a good example of what Black Metal is supposed to be. Guitars, first and foremost.

"Staring obsessed at the moon..."

"Life Eternal bursts forth with fury before quickly settling down into a mid-paced tempo. The riffs here seem to be very similar to what one would find on an old Burzum album, and I often wonder if he was either influenced by this song, or if he had some sort of influence on the song. This is the longest song on the album, and possesses a very dark and mournful feeling. Near the end, there is a moment where there is nothing but a freezing tremolo guitar riff that is cutting through your flesh... This riff is brilliant and this is one of the best moments on the whole album. The riff is then accompanied by blasting drums and insane vocals. Some of Dead's most poignant lines follow:

"What will be left of me when I am dead? There was nothing when I lived."

"From the Dark Past" follows and features somewhat of a Thrash riff, as the song builds up. This is cast aside in favor of typical tremolo riffing after a brief time. More grim moans and screams from Attila carry the listener into a nightmare from which there is no escape. The most atmospheric part of the song comes as most everything else stops and leaves the guitar all alone. Unfortunately, Hellhammer keeps interrupting with unecessary drum fills. He should have taken his cues from Fenriz and understood that less is more. It doesn't ruin the song, but it does work against the feeling that was being created with the melody.

As the album approaches the end, "Buried By Time and Dust" speeds through with great intensity. This song is very straightforward and features some of the best riffs on the whole album. The lead harmony is absolutely brilliant and the song works well in this sped-up version, as opposed to the way it had been played on the live recordings.

"De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" begins with the single best riff on here. The gates of Hell have been opened and demons now flood the earth. This song is an epic of pure evil and an excellent way to end the album. The riffs are cold as the winds coming off a glacier, and the lyrics tell of a sacrificial ritual in the dead of night. Attila's vocals are at their most theatric, here, and they work very well.

There has always been much debate, regarding the vocals. Personally, I've always felt that it was a shame that Dead was unable to record the vocals for this album as I really liked what he did on the studio tracks, "The Freezing Moon" and "Carnage". However, it was impossible for him to do the vocals for this album and I think Attila was a fine choice. His voice is unique and he truly seemed to put forth a lot of effort to channel the darkness intended for these songs. In truth, he sounds fucking possessed, and that suits the music, as well as the lyrics. Besides that, I read in an old interview that Dead was a fan of Tormentor, so it would seem all the more appropriate. All in all, this is a very solid album. Is it the best Black Metal album ever recorded? Probably not. However, it is every bit the classic that it is hailed as and one of the most important Black Metal records ever made. No one can deny the importance of Mayhem for the Norwegian scene, and beyond. It's a pity that the band name was resurrected after the two most important members were long gone.

Gorgoroth - Pentagram (1994)


Pentagram is a classic album of True Norwegian Black Metal. On this album, Gorgoroth did everything right. Nothing is out of place. Every riff, every arrangement... every single note is exactly as it should be. This should be regarded as nothing less than a masterpiece. The only negatives that anyone might be able to dig up is that it bears similarities to bands such as Mayhem, Burzum and Darkthrone. The rhythm section, in particular, brings to mind some of the faster material from the early Burzum albums; however, this seems to be executed in a style similar to what Mayhem did on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. The drums are kept simple enough (taking a cue from Darkthrone) and add the occasional fill when needed. At times, the intensity of built up to introduce a new riff, but they march forward, steadily, for the most part. The heavy echo gives them a thunderous feel, reminiscent of Burzum. The rhythm guitar adheres to a similar pattern, filling in the low frequencies and providing the melodic foundation for the harmonies of the lead guitar. Despite these influences being obvious (aren't Darkthrone's influences quite apparent as well?), Infernus displays a great talent for songwriting and has created some truly amazing riffs. However, stunning riffs don't necessarily equal a classic album. That's where the arrangements come in. Everything is played at precisely the right moment, sending chills down your spine, at times. Pentagram shows a great sense of climactic narration that takes you to the heights of the mountaintops and back into the swirling abyss, damned to suffer eternally. For every bit of vicious energy that comes through, there is also an atmosphere of sorrow. All the instruments work together to create compositions of breathtaking artistry. The vocals are no exception.

Hat's extremely high-pitched vocals are absolutely insane. To my knowledge, there was nothing else quite like this at the time, and no one has ever come close since. Apparently, there are some that do not appreciate his vocal approach and I can't fathom why, as it suits the music without question. His voice seems to take the role of a rhythmic instrument, rather than as a 'lead singer'. This is an intense album, to be sure, but the percussive vocals give it the final touch it needed to go beyond perfection. Despite showing some influences, this album is quite unique and added yet another element to the developing Norwegian Black Metal scene.

The album opens with "Begravelsesnatt", which translates to "Burialnight". This song is very short, and goes for the throat immediately. The fast tremolo-picked melodies cut through you as the high-pitched screams penetrate your skull. The style seems similar to Darkthrone, yet the execution is closer to Mayhem. The pace slows down just a little bit, right near the end.

Next is "Crushing the Scepter (Regaining A Lost Dominion), which is a bit slower and features some slower, doom-filled sections, and the open-arpeggio riffing that Burzum is known for. After plodding along, the song speeds up once more and unleashes a freezing cold lead harmony. As the song slows down once more, a sorrowful melody carries it to its conclusion. This is true brilliance.

"Ritual" begins with fast guitars, a somber melody and blasting drums, but quickly turns into a mid-paced dirge, complete with tormented screams from beyond. After swimming through lakes of fire, the song speeds up and slows down, carrying you to the peak and then letting you fall to the jagged rocks below.

"Drømmer Om Død" is next and starts with a more simplistic pace. Beautiful lead harmonies, weave in and out, until the song builds up into a complete monster, crushing everything in its path. The thunderous drums, menacing guitars and hellish vocals unleash their fury before fading away, leaving only an echo.

"Katharinas Bortgang" begins with the same intensity as the title track from Burzum's Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. Rather than droning or using repetition to lull the listener into a trance, the song builds, steadily, higher and higher in an effort to unleash war upon the pearly gates. The melodies are nothing short of pure genius.

"Huldrelokk" is an instrumental track that features a good number of excellent riffs. The speed is fast yet the harmonies create a dark atmosphere, as is present on the rest of the album. How a two minute instrumental piece can possibly be so epic, I'll never quite understand. Credit must, again, be given to the sheer brilliance of Infernus.

"(Under) The Pagan Megalith" keeps up the pace from the previous song, carried along by Hat's inhuman screaming. The song features a surprising thrash riff, then slows down into something reminiscent of Under A Funeral Moon, complete with bells, before speeding up once more. I once heard someone say that Gorgoroth was a generic Black Metal band. Honestly, I have to wonder if they've even heard this because this is anything but generic.

And, finally, we come to "Måneskyggens Slave". This is the climax of the entire album, and one of the most epic Black Metal compositions ever made. Everything is here; the fast tremolo riffs, the slower arpeggio riffs, the blasting drums, the terrible shrieks, the freezing melodies... More important is the way that everything is arranged. The break, where everything stops except the guitar is one of my favorite moments on the whole album. Like any great, epic song, this takes you on a journey. However, even describing every single note would never come close to explaining the importance of this song. The melodies are dark and sorrowful, yet the song is filled with energy. There is a definite 'Metal' vibe (for lack of a better term) that seems to urge you on, as if into battle. You know that your enemy possesses greater numbers and that you will not defeat them, yet you will meet them in battle, nonetheless.

Twenty-nine minutes. Just under half an hour, yet this possesses the epic nature of an album twice as long, at least. Sometimes forgotten, Pentagram is evidence that Gorgoroth were equal to and, sometimes, superior to their peers in Norway and beyond. 1994 saw the release of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Transilvanian Hunger, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and even In the Nightside Eclipse, yet none of these highly regarded albums can overshadow the brilliance put forth here. Gorgoroth may have arrived a little late, but they were in no way inferior to the rest. If you don't own this, seek it out at any and all cost.

Darkthrone - Panzerfaust (1995)


After becoming completely obsessed with the Transilvanian Hunger cassette that I obtained, I managed to wear it out to the point where it didn't play as well. Mind you, this was no cheap copy but rather the actual cassette. As a result, I began looking for the CD version. It took a couple months to find but, in the meantime, I stumbled across Panzerfaust, making it the first official Darkthrone album that I owned on CD.

Panzerfaust was recorded in Necrohell Studio, in the early months of 1994, and was the final of the classic Darkthrone albums. While not belonging to the 'Unholy Trinity', it is certainly still part of that era. This was the first album that they released on Moonfog Records, having severed ties with Peaceville after the previous recording. The cover features Nocturno Culto in a snowy forest, with the moon in the night sky above. On the back reads the words: "Evig er Krigen Mot de av lyset." This translates to, "Eternal is the war against those of the light." The production is still very lo-fi and ugly, but the sound is a bit different from its predecessor, most likely due to the variation in tempo and the prominence of the vocals.

The album begins much as one would expect it to, as "En Vind Av Sorg" would not be out of place on Transilvanian Hunger. It would seem that the band found their distinct style on that masterpiece and this would be a continuation of that brilliance. The tremolo-picked melodies are freezing cold and the drums blast away in obscurity. Yet the first thing one notices is that the vocals are much higher in the mix than before. Perhaps, they are a little too high, but this is a minor complaint. In a sense, this serves to make the song that much more harsh and unwelcoming. The mournful harmonies create an atmosphere of sorrow (appropriate, since the title translates to "The Wind of Sorrow") yet the vocals are as hateful as they are anguished. The main riff is one of the best Black Metal riffs ever written. As the song ends, drums and vocals fade away, leaving only the sorrowful guitar melody.

The next song, "Triumphant Gleam", came as somewhat of a shock, being total Hellhammer/Celtic Frost worship instead of following along the expected path. This is very raw and primitive Black Metal, yet energetic and thrashy as well. The double bass came as a bit of a surprise. As the song slows down, the dark and evil atmosphere begins to surround you, but it isn't long before the song speeds back up.

"Hordes of Nebulah" is an absolute monster. Stylistically, this owes a lot to Celtic Frost. The riffs are slow and filled with doom. Nocturno Culto's vocals are dripping with hatred and sorrow. If Hellhammer was what happened when you slow down Venom, this must be what it's like to slow down Hellhammer/Celtic Frost. However, this is not mere imitation. The presentation of the song may not be that original, but it is easily identifiable as being Darkthrone. The guitar solo, albeit brief, is eerie and adds to the overall effect. This is the kind of song that makes you want to gouge out your own heart with a rusted blade or to turn the hatred outward and annihilate all traces of life from the earth.

"Hans Siste Vinter" is another song that possesses the Transilvanian Hunger vibe, consisting of fast tremolo riffs and blasting drums. The mournful melody is very haunting and will freeze you to the very core of your being, turning your blood into ice and leaving you to die in the cold wastelands, covered by the falling snow. Of note is that the lyrics to this song aren't included in the insert, making me wonder if this song was just written at the last minute to fill time. Either way, it's one of the best on here.

"Beholding the Throne of Might" is another mid-paced song that some would see as a tribute to Celtic Frost. On the surface, that would appear to be an accurate conclusion. However, the spirit of Darkthrone cannot be denied. This isn't simply Celtic Frost with harsher vocals. The atmosphere being created on this album is pure Darkthrone, regardless of the style they utilize to do so.

The next song's lyrics were penned by none other than Varg Vikernes and, strangely, the song is actually similar to something that one would expect from Burzum. "Quintessence" is the most epic song ever written by Darkthrone. The atmosphere is cold and filled with doom. Nocturno Culto's vocals are filled with such anguish and utter hatred. This is one of the most inspired vocal performances in the history of Black Metal. Near the end, it is absolutely bone chilling as his tormented voice screams:

"Only one single lamp do show me this way, and that is... the eye of Satan...SATAN!"

This is a very cathartic experience. The main riff continues on, before a few more desperate screams signal the end and it slowly fades out. A very powerful song, on many levels.

"Snø Og Granskog (Utferd)" sounds like something left over from Isengard, but does well to suit the atmosphere that has been created by the song preceding it. The outro features the voice of Fenriz (presumably) speaking in Norwegian.

Burzum - Filosofem (1996)


After discovering the brilliance of the song "Black Spell of Destruction", so many years ago, I searched to find any Burzum album that I could. Back then, it was very difficult and the search took longer than I had anticipated. In the meantime, I managed to record my first Burzum song from the college radio show, "The Haunted Mansion", that I regularly listened to. This song was titled "Burzum".

[Contrary to popular belief, this is the official title of the song, not "Dunkelheit" as many seem to think. I have no idea why the German translations were listed on the back, but this is obviously a mistake. There is not a single word of German spoken on this album, as the actual lyrics are in English and Norwegian.]

The word "Burzum" means "darkness" in the black speech of Mordor, a language created by J.R.R. Tolkien. This was the first song Varg ever composed and wrote lyrics for. Upon writing this song in the summer of 1991, he changed the name of the band from Uruk-Hai to Burzum. This song was initially intended to be included on an earlier album, but the recording was considered to be poor.

Filosofem was recorded in March 1993, in Breidablik Studio. The sound is more harsh and raw, especially the vocals. It has been said that Varg chose to use the worst possible mic for the recording, and it shows. I think this is the one major setback of this album, when compared to the others. For one reason or another, this seems to be the most popular and accepted Burzum album, yet I feel that the loss of such unique and powerful vocals is a detriment to the music. This was the last Black Metal album recorded by Burzum.

"Burzum" begins with Varg's trademark, sweeping guitar riffs and sparse drums. The sound is cold as ice and the song is mid-paced throughout. There are keyboards that are used sparingly, perfectly blending with the music. The vocals are heavily distorted and raspy, yet more decipherable than the earlier albums. The effect is more grim, but it loses something with regard to the emotion that was conveyed with the previous style. Very inhuman, to say the least. However, later in the song, he uses clean vocals for a spoken word part. The mood is very dismal and hopeless as the music plods along and the arpeggio riffs repeat, again and again. It seems almost trance-inducing.

"Jesu Død" begins with fast tremolo-picked riffs but no drums. This continues to build up the suspense for a minute or so, as you know what is coming and become a little impatient. Absolutely brilliant harmonies used here. The raw production suits this song very well. The screeching vocals seem to take a place in the background, along with the drums, as this song is largely driven by the guitars. They are very distorted and abrasive, yet they require close attention in order to hear the different layers of melody. The fury unleashed by this song is truly unrelenting and Varg displays a great deal of stamina.

"Beholding the Daughters of the Firmament" is next, and the pace slows down from the previous song. This is very primitive and simplistic, yet creates a cold and sorrowful atmosphere. Again, I feel that the different vocal approach really holds this album back from achieving its true potential. As this song draws to a conclusion, the general consensus is that the album begins to lose something in consistency. I reject this view, but it may depend on what you are looking for when you listen to this album.

The next track is an atmospheric piece that abandons conventional song structures. "Decreptitude I" is very melancholic and imbues one with the sense of drowning in blood. Indeed, Varg sounds as if he is dying. As good as this is, I must wonder what it would sound like with his trademark screams. Either way, though most consider the album over after track three, I feel that this song is very essential to the overall atmosphere of the album.

"Rundtgåing av den Transcendentale Egenhetens Støtte" is a 25 minute long ambient piece, very much the successor to "Tomhet", from Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. It would seem that the masses lose interest by this point, or just can't digest such a lengthy song. Either way, it's their loss. This somber piece is actually very liberating in a sense, if you allow yourself to be taken away by the magic it creates. Along with "Tomhet", I played this song over and over as I was reading "The Lord of the Rings" and the two songs made a perfect soundtrack. It is odd how a piece of music that is so minimalist and simplistic seems to be lost on the most simple-minded listeners. Close inspection will reveal the melody from the song "Det Som En Gang Var" reappearing here. It kind of gives the impression of remembering that classic song, but in a dream.

"Decreptitude II" ends the final album recorded by a free Varg Vikernes. This is, more or less, a very lengthy outro piece, as opposed to being an actual song. After a minute or so, fuzzy guitar riffs fade in to add to the bleak atmosphere being created, with the same melody from "Decreptitude I".

I've read where people complain that the second half of this album is hard to get into and tries the patience of the listener. In all honesty, I think these are the sentiments of simple-minded sheep that shouldn't be listening to the album (or Black Metal, as a whole) to begin with. The masses simply want instant gratification without having to invest any significant amount of time, energy or thought. That is why this music is so difficult for them; it challenges them to think, and that's what many people fear the most.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Burzum - Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1994)


This was the last Burzum album that I acquired. In a moment of stupidity, I nearly passed it up as I imagined it to be an E.P., since there were only four songs, and I was reluctant to go through the trouble of finding it for so few songs. Thankfully, I had a friend that had a copy and introduced me to the first song on a lengthy car ride, one night. Some time later, when I found myself face to face with this masterpiece in a Swedish record store (Sound Pollution), I did not hesitate to pick it up.

Hvis Lyset Tar Oss was recorded in Grieghallen Studios in September 1992. It is amazing to think of the fact that the first three albums, and an E.P., were all recorded within a span of only eight months, yet so much musical progression takes place. This album was released on Misanthropy Records as the Count was chained in a dark dungeon by this time. He dedicated his creation to Fenriz and Demonaz. The Album cover is artwork from Theodor Kittelsen (1857- 1914) called "Fattigmannen" (The Pauper), and it suits the music, being beautiful yet sorrowful.

Hvis Lyset Tar Oss is widely regarded as the moment when Count Grishnackh reached his creative peak. Regarding the guitars, he retains his basic power chord and tremelo style guitar lines that he used on the previous albums. The emphasis is on quality over quantity (a point many Black Metal bands fail to understand). One of the main reasons this release is so memorable and highly regarded is the fact that the riffs are all brilliant. All of the songs flow seamlessly, and the riffs are repetitive to the point that you can't help but think that the music is simply a gateway into one's own visions and thoughts, and that the music simply acts as a catalyst, presenting possibilities and ideas to the mind.

"Det Som En Gang Var" begins with a lengthy guitar intro that also features some keyboard use. Burzum is unique in that the keyboards actually become another part of the music, rather than dominating the sound or becoming the only means of creating atmosphere. For example, if you were to remove the keyboards from an Emperor album, most of the atmosphere would be lost. However, if the same was done here, very little would change. They are used only to accentuate the atmosphere. Of notice is that the sound is very clear, very cold. As the drums build up and the song really begins, you are taken on a journey through dreams and memories. The title translates to "What Once Was" and, as a very nostalgic person, few things can evoke such a reaction as lamenting that which has gone forever. As the first anguished screams are unleashed, nothing could be more perfect. It is remarkable that such melancholic melodies can be created while maintaining the inherent simplicity and repetition of Burzum's style. This is the most epic song ever recorded by Count Grishnackh and yet, at 14 minutes, it doesn't seem nearly long enough. The atmosphere is stark and despairing. The harmonies chill you to the very bone and circle around you like a blizzard of knives. With each tortured scream, one of the knives pierces your freezing flesh. In mourning for that which was, the beauty that has withered away and passed into the realm of shadow, never to return, the agonized shrieks are a reflection of the darkness within. Hope has died. Halfway through the song is the greatest riff ever captured. It pierces your heart with sorrow and yet is liberating at the same time. As everything gets quiet, there is just the guitar and vocals. The desperation is overwhelming. Then, the song builds back up, in all its epic glory, as the terrible screams wail with pain and misery:

"Det som en gang var."

Yet, the true meaning of the song is finally understood with the final two lines, not just in realizing what they mean but in the manner in which they are conveyed: the anguished screams of a being trapped between life and death.

"Vi døde ikke... Vi har aldri levd."

How does one follow up such an epic masterpiece? The draining experience of being immersed in the first song is sharply contrasted by the "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss", which is one of the most straightforward Black Metal songs to be found in Burzum's discography. The pace never slows down, yet it is not energizing like a song such as "War". The feeling is hypnotic and trance-inducing. The title translates to "If the Light Takes Us" and the lyrics convey sorrow and hatred for the world or, at least, what it has become.

Much like the previous song, "Inn I Slottet Fra Droemmen" clocks in around the eight minute mark, yet still seems short when compared to the first and last songs. This song continues on in the same style as the title track, yet is infinitely more droning and hypnotic. It is like a long journey through a harsh and desolate landscape of darkened forests, paths covered with jagged rocks and obscured by mist. The title translates to "Into the Castle of Dreams" and one is hardly given the chance to breath, until about halfway through. The structuring of the album is truly brilliant as it seems designed to create the most intense experience possible. Halfway through, the song slows down and the tension is finally released with the anguished screams of Count Grishnackh. This is definitely one of the most memorable moments on the album. The whole tone of the song changes as the journey of life comes to an end and one enters the castle of dreams.

The 14 minute long ambient piece "Tomhet" finishes the album. The title translates to "Emptiness" and the song conveys this with ease. This song is like journeying deep through some forgotten land, through dangerous mountains, the murky shadows of dismal valleys and the ever-present threat of one's own demise. There is little hope, if any, and the burden of life becomes greater with each step. After several minutes, the song gets much quieter, and the feeling of total and absolute emptiness is overwhelming. The hopelessness is unbearable. And yet, at the darkest point, a faint glimmer of light shows through the darkness. Pleasant memories can be recalled; memories of better times. Memories almost forgotten. Yet in this moment, a longing takes hold and the realization that those times are, indeed, forever gone is impossible to escape. The hope that something good and pleasant may return... it only serves to torment the heart into utter oblivion. What was once beautiful has now faded into nothingness. The truest evil lays not in the realm of dragons and demons, but within the heart of man. In the emptiness of the human spirit...

Burzum - Det Som Engang Var (1993)


Det Som Engang Var was recorded in Grieghallen, in April 1992, not long after the release of the self-titled debut. Like that album, this was produced by Count Grishnackh and Pytten. Its release was delayed until August 1993. Originally intended to be the second official Burzum recording, the Aske E.P. was mistakenly put out before this. It was by this point that the Count had a falling out with owner of DSP, Euronymous, and decided to start his own label, Cymophane Productions. If he could not rely on others, he would take matters into his own hands and see to it that things would be done properly. In interviews from early 1993, Grishnackh expressed his disappointment in the delay of this monumental album and worried that it would be dated and already ripped off countless times before it was ever officially released. He may have been underestimating his own abilities, as this record was far ahead of anything else being done in the Black Metal scene.

After experiencing the brilliance and power of "Black Spell of Destruction", I scoured the earth for any Burzum album that I could find. While I was unable to locate the first one, I did manage to get my hands on Det Som Engang Var. In between hearing that first song and acquiring this album, I had also recorded the song "Burzum" from "The Haunted Mansion". At this point, I had no real idea of what the trademark Burzum sound was, other than certain riff patterns. The vocals from the self-titled album and Filosofem are quite different, so I didn't know what to expect when the second album arrived in the mail.

The album begins with "Den Onde Kysten", a two and a half minute long intro. This creates a sense of continuity as it seems to pick up from where the first album leaves off, with "Dungeons of Darkness". The atmosphere is that of darkness and dread. The title translates to "The Coast of Evil" and it does give the feeling of being isolated in a sinister place, bereft of light or hope.

As the listener's spirits have been drained with the intro, "Key to the Gate" marches forward, unrelenting and chaotic in its attack. It is quite the shock to your system. The song begins with great speed, then goes into a Thrash riff reminiscent of old Destruction, and alternates back and forth for the early part of the song. But this does not last long. Everything comes to a stop, and nothing is present but the guitars and the tortured and misanthropic shrieks of Count Grishnackh. This is followed by a melodic dirge of droning riffs and some terribly desperate shrieks. He sounds almost as if he is dying, or at least wishing for death. This is sorrowful Black Metal at its finest. The song then builds up again before unleashing a dark and beautiful guitar solo that penetrates your soul and slowly carries you toward oblivion. Once again, the Count opens an album with a song that is nothing less than perfection.

"En Ring Til Å Herske" is next and it continues from where the previous song left off, being a slow and anguished march through darkened mountain passes and dismal forests, bound in chains and forced along by black Orcs. The plodding pace and eerie clean vocals in the background create an atmosphere of utter desolation and agony. As the song reaches its slowest point, again we are left alone with only the guitar and the sorrowful wails of Count Grishnack. The drums return and the tempo begins building up toward a desperate climax as the miserable screams imbue the listener with a cold and hopeless feeling.

"Lost Wisdom" is another minimalist Black Metal song, consisting of faster, Thrash sections, and the typical slower parts that Burzum is well known for. The song is more upbeat than the previous two, yet mournful as well. The lyrics are both depressing and misanthropic, without being exactly hateful.

"Han Som Reiste" is a quiet instrumental piece that maintains the atmosphere of sorrow and lamentation. This song seems to truly embody the title of the album, which translates to "What Once Was". Actually, while reading "The Hobbit", I played this song over and over again and it suited the story very well.

"Når Himmelen Klarner" is another instrumental, though being simply a normal song without vocals. The first minute or so consists of nothing but guitars, and it is somewhat reminiscent of "Dominus Sathanas". The title translates to "When the Sky Clears". Like the previous song, this one allows the mind to wander, endlessly. There is a dark beauty here and the harmonies have somewhat of a calming effect.

"Snu Mikrokosmos Tegn" puts an end to the serene atmosphere created by the previous song. This one begins with fast tremolo-picked riffs, blasting drums and every bit of the cold hatred and misanthropic agony that can be conjured by the otherworldly shrieks of Count Grishnackh. There is a definite sense of urgency in the melodies presented. This is one final assault before the end comes. After a few minutes, the pace slows down a bit and the vocals convey the feeling of an agonizing death. Again, the other instruments stop, leaving only the guitar, which uses that melancholic, bleeding, open-arpeggio riffing style pretty much patented by Burzum. Behind the painful screams are some clean vocals that add a lot to the atmosphere. Choosing to use this instead of keyboards adds somewhat of an organic feel to the song. The listener feels as if something has reached inside his chest and is firmly gripping his heart with an icy hand. A sense of desperation builds as you want the pain to end, even if it means that your heart will be ripped right out. You know that relief will come only with death and yet you welcome it. As the song fades, you can see the dark gate before you.

The album ends with a bleak and obscure outro, very similar to the intro and yet giving the feeling that the journey is complete. This is much more complex than the intro, as well, containing many different effects and a melody that seems to recall a world long lost. Then, in the final moments, all recollection of this world is stamped out and gone forever, leaving you empty and alone.

Burzum - Aske (1993)


Aske was released in March 1993, on Deathlike Silence Productions. It was recorded in August 1992, at Grieghallen Studios and produced by Count Grishnackh and Pytten. Aske is unique in that it features a session member. Samoth, of Emperor, plays bass on this E.P. This was around the time that the Count was considering putting together a full lineup and playing live. Despite being the second official Burzum release, this E.P. was recorded after Det Som Engang Var, which was intended to be released first. The cover features a photo of the ruins of the Fantoftkirke, a church burned in 1992 by Count Grishnackh.

The E.P. begins with "Stemmen Fra Tårnet", which fades in and immediately seizes you by the throat. The tempo is sort of a mid-paced gallop, and the terrible shrieks rip right into your soul. This song seems to appeal to the imagination, and evokes images of a landscape befitting a Tolkien novel. While maintaining a dark atmosphere, this is probably the most uptempo Burzum song ever recorded. The title translates to "Voice From the Tower" and the lyrics could be interpreted as somewhat optimistic. Certainly an escape from reality and the confines of this world. Sadly, the song cuts off, abruptly, and the dream dissipates into nothingness.

The very somber "Dominus Sathanas" is next. This is a very dark and atmospheric instrumental track, though it does include one extremely soul-shattering scream. This song was recorded in April 1992, around the same time as Det Som Engang Var, and would not be out of place on that album. This song drags the listener back into the abyss visited on the debut L.P.

The E.P. concludes with a re-recorded version of "A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit". Apparently, the Count was not satisfied with the way that it turned out, the first time around. This version is slower (and longer) and I think that helps the atmosphere greatly. It is during these moments that the melodies lull you into a trance and your mind is most open to the magic within the songs.

This song features more straightforward Black Metal riffing and cold, hateful vocals. After a couple minutes of this, the song slows way down and the mournful atmosphere returns. This is the longest song on the album and is quite entrancing. This song has a very calming effect. You know that death is near, yet you have come to grips with this fact. No longer consumed with hatred for the world or for life, you simply await the end. As the riffs chill your skin, you know that soon you will be free of this prison of flesh. You begin to think about how peaceful everything will be once the end comes. Yet it is taking too long. You become impatient. The song speeds up once more and you unleash the last bit of hatred and energy as you slash at your veins, moving closer to the abyss. The song slows down to a crawl. Count Grishnackh's miserable shrieks fill your soul with a longing for the end. Plagued with memories of suffering and despair, you yearn to be free. His screams continue and they speak to you on a level beyond human language. The time is ever nearer. The sorrow must be released.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Burzum - s/t (1992)


If you talk to a lot of people, today, they'll have you believe that they were in on the ground floor of the Norwegian Black Metal scene. Seriously. Worse yet, half the people are my age or even younger, yet they'll swear up and down that they were into it from day one. Truth be told, most of the people that were even old enough to be around at this point were probably wearing their mother's make-up and listening to The Cure or some sort of glam rock, when Deathcrush was released. The vast majority only ever heard about the Norwegian Black Metal scene after it was, more or less, dead. Maybe they read about the church burnings and the murders. More likely, they read about it online or in "Lords of Chaos". People carry on heated discussions regarding the relationship between Euronymous and Varg, as if they knew the people, personally. Sadly, most of these people are in it for the hype and nothing more. Very few actually bother to listen to the music and even less have a true understanding of it.

I was not "waiting at the local record store" the day that A Blaze in the Northern Sky or Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism came out. I was mostly listening to Thrash Metal and the most evil thing I had discovered, by the time churches were being burned across Norway, was Slayer's Hell Awaits. However, as it concerns Burzum, I think I had an advantage. While I wasn't listening to these albums as they came out, I still managed to make the same progression as those that came before me. Unlike kids who, today, hear a million different "extreme metal" bands and then can't understand why bands like Venom and Bathory are so important, I was exposed to everything in the proper chronological order. I first heard Black Sabbath before I could even walk. I listened to various rock and metal bands, during the 80s and early 90s. I then ran across bands like Slayer, Venom and Hellhammer. This was my introduction to Black Metal, and darker music in general. Luckily, for me, I started at the beginning. So, by the time I heard bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone and Burzum, I had a decent background in the same old bands that had inspired them. Despite this, nothing could prepare for the experience of hearing Burzum, for the first time.

One gloomy and depressing night, many years ago, my best friend came by to visit me. I'm not sure how or where he'd acquired it, but he had a CD that included various bands. I can't really recall most of the other songs that were on there, but one song commanded my attention. This was "Black Spell of Destruction" from Burzum's self-titled debut. This was prior to finding Transilvanian Hunger on cassette, so "Over Fjell og Gjennom Torner" was still the only Norwegian Black Metal that I had, at the time. The haunting, depressing melodies suited my mood at the time, perfectly. Then, I heard the vocals. Not even the tormented shrieks from "Triumph of Death" could prepare me for this. I'd never heard anything like it. The tortured screams, filled with despair, spoke to me on some deep level that I was not even able to fully understand. I couldn't even decipher what was being said, but I knew what it meant, without a doubt. As the song neared its conclusion, the mournful wails and somber melodies obsessed my mind and through those terrible screams I could feel the misery and hatred in my own black heart being expressed. I wasn't just listening to the music, I was experiencing it. I knew that I must own this album. It took a couple years to locate, but it was well worth the wait. Though it was recorded and released in the Winter months of 1992, the first Burzum album was far ahead of its time.

"Feeble Screams From Forests Unknown" begins the album with fury and speed, and is one of the most straightforward Black Metal songs on the album. Few of the riffs are repeated and the song kind of gives the feeling of traveling slowly down a dark path in the dead of night. After beginning with very fast tremolo-picked riffs and blastbeats, it then slows down, and as it progresses, it descends deeper and deeper into the abyss of despair. As the song slows down and nothing is left but the guitar and the tortured screams of Count Grishnackh, it sends chills through my body. However, then the song speeds back up and the hatred bursts forth. It is quite appropriate that the first four songs are "Side Hate". This song is indeed, fucking cold. So to speak, of course. The song then settles down a bit as a melancholic riff carries it to its conclusion. That was no mere song, it was like a journey, and it was only the beginning.

Next is "Ea, Lord of the Depths". This song begins with a drum beat that remains consistent throughout much of the song. Count Grishnackh handles all of the instruments in Burzum, and is quite a competent musician. Many other one-man bands, that draw a lot of inspiration from Burzum, usually display their shortcomings with one or more instruments or resort to using some sort of drum programming. Not the morbid Count. He wrote and recorded everything, perfectly, without even the benefit of being able to rehearse the songs or hear them in the entirety until after he was finished. He simply knew what they were supposed to sound like, in his head, and made it happen. As for the music, the second song features the aforementioned double bass at the beginning, and a very dark guitar melody that weaves through your subconscious and corrupts your very soul. Again, the vocals are filled with hate and winter and add greatly to the atmosphere. Many have tried to imitate this style and have failed, miserably. As the song progresses, the riffs are repeated and there is a short solo, near the end.

Next is "Black Spell of Destruction", my favorite song on the album. This one is slow and ominous. The melodies are filled with mourning and the vocals convey an unrelenting despair. This is one of the darkest and most depressing songs ever recorded. This is like a journey through the blackened depths of the human mind. Here, there is no hope... no peace. There is only anguish and misery. The walls are closing in and it becomes more and more difficult to breathe. The tormented screams mirror those within your own heart. Everything comes to a stop, as there is nothing left but a mournful guitar melody and the most agonizing screams imaginable. You feel claustrophobic within your own skin and yearn to be released. The haunting melody urges you to seek death, to seek release. The screaming continues, and yet you realize that you are screaming as well, within your mind. There is nothing but despair. You must escape the bonds of human flesh...

"Channeling the Power of Souls Into A New God" is a brief ambient piece that serves to continue the journey. The tone is a somber one, and it feels as if your spirit is wandering, aimlessly, through space and time. This allows you to breathe once more before the coming battle.

"War" is pure Bathory worship. This song serves to reinvigorate the listener and bring them to life once more. The song is short, simple and filled with energy. There is also a decent solo, by Euronymous, near the end.

"The Crying Orc" is a brief instrumental piece, consisting of only a sorrowful guitar melody that fades in, depresses and then fades back into oblivion. It does well to calm the listener down after the bloodlust of the previous song.

"Side Winter" continues with "A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit". Having first heard the re-recorded version from the Aske EP, this is a bit difficult to digest. My favorite parts of the song are the slower sections, yet the original has a faster pace and the atmosphere is not the same. It does slow down, after about seven minutes, to the familiar pattern of a slow and melancholy crawl. However, this does not quite make up for what is missing from the first half of the song and I am very glad that the Count re-recorded this as the second version is darker and does a better job of conveying the cold, melancholy feeling that he was going for.

"My Journey To the Stars" is next. This, along with “Spell of Destruction”, contends for the position of “best song on the album”. The song starts off with tremolo-picked tri-tone notes, before flowing into the higher range of the guitar, and going into a fast drum beat. This creates a sense of doom and tension. This all takes over a minute to build up, and by leaving nothing out, it is the perfect build-up to a song of such an epic nature. As the drums come in, you prepare to go beyond the mortal realm, into the nightsky. This is one of the fastest tracks on the album, and very lengthy, clocking in at just over 8 minutes. The guitar tracks are harmonized very well, and this song contains the greatest riff ever written, at 4:53. There are several tempo changes, allowing tiny bits of hope to creep in, only to be trampled by overwhelming grief. The song slows down toward the end however, and contains another part of only guitar and vocals. This creates a bitter cold atmosphere and the anguished vocals prepare you for your ultimate demise. As the dark ritual nears completion, there is but one thing left to do.

"Dungeons of Darkness" ends the album in an obscure and sinister manner. This is another ambient piece, and serves as the soundtrack to your final breath...

Darkthrone - Transilvanian Hunger (1994)

In the Winter months of 1996/1997, I learned of a college radio show that played Black, Death and Doom Metal, called "The Haunted Mansion". I listened to this show, regularly, and recorded lot of music. It was on a dismal Winter night that I heard my first Darkthrone song, "Over Fjell og Gjennom Torner". It was unlike anything I had ever heard. At this point, the darkest music I listened to was old Slayer, Hellhammer and Venom. None of the Death Metal I was listening to at the time, such as Altars of Madness by Morbid Angel, came anywhere close. This was something altogether different. After two and a half minutes, the song ended just as abruptly as it began. In those two and a half minutes, I was changed forever. Musically, I had lived a very sheltered existence. With this one song, the walls crumbled and I was left in the fiery abyss, alone in the light of the flames. I didn't fully comprehend what just happened, but I kept going back to the tape and I listened to the song again and again.

Some time later, one October night, I acquired Transilvanian Hunger on cassette. The first time I listened to this masterpiece, the experience was quite similar to when I'd heard that first song. The music was bleak and minimal. The Necrohell production job was shocking. The odd silences between the songs built tension. The hypnotic melodies filled my mind with visions of a Medieval castle deep within the frozen forest, inhabited by a creature of darkness, lusting for the blood of mortals. I listened to this tape over and over again, all night. The sorrowful melodies and despairing vocals continued to haunt me, long after the cassette had been put away. Each day, I went back to it and had to listen to it as many times as I possibly could. Never before or since has an album had such a profound effect on me.

The year was 1993. Within the span of a few months, Under A Funeral Moon was released, Burzum released Det Som Engang Var, Mayhem completed recording of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Euronymous was murdered and Varg Vikernes went behind bars for murder and church arson. Into the Autumn months, Immortal released Pure Holocaust and Darkthrone went into Necrohell Studio to record Transilvanian Hunger.

Transilvanian Hunger forever remains Darkthrone's ultimate masterpiece and one of the strongest Black Metal albums ever recorded, Norwegian or otherwise. It is the single most influential record from this entire subgenre. The all embracing minimalism and hatred evoked on the album has made it the definitive work of any Black Metal band and has inspired legions of followers to try, in vain, to recapture the black magic of this grim art. With Transilvanian Hunger, Darkthrone reached the level or progression (or regression) that they had been seeking since embarking on the dark path that they had taken in 1991. Everything that Under A Funeral Moon was striving to be was captured here.

Realizing that which many others seem to miss, Fenriz embraced pure minimalism in his drumming technique, resorting to fills only when absolutely necessary; filling almost every song with simplistic, pulsing drumbeats, continuously alternating bass and snare. The fact that the drums are so low in the mix also helps to enhance this atmosphere, creating a much more internal, visceral feeling. The real key to this album is the guitar work. The guitar melodies are the most important thing. The dark and sorrowful harmonies stand out, and convey a depressing and hateful feeling. Riff-wise, this may be one of the most important albums for Black Metal. Needless to say, it's minimalist; a series of notes will revolve around one chord for any given amount of time, before switching to another riff of the same nature. All of the playing is based upon mid-paced, tremolo-picked chords. However, each song has its own identity.

The title track remains one of the greatest Black Metal songs ever created. It takes the listener on a journey through cold mountains and forests of Transilvania, toward an evil castle to face the dreadful bloodlust of the morbid count. The imagery created is that of cold stone walls, torches lighting the shadowy halls, bats and cobwebs. This is pure horror, yet it feels all too real. As with most music, this is best when listened to in the dark, illuminated only by the light of candles. The song is indicative of the whole album, creating a freezing atmosphere of darkness and sorrow.

"Over Fjell og Gjennom Torner" is the shortest song on the album, but it is just as memorable as the rest. It is doubtful that any other band could create such an epic feeling with so few riffs and such little time, but Darkthrone achieved this with no problem. Despite sounding hateful and evil on the first song, Nocturno Culto's vocals sound even more sinister reciting the Norwegian lyrics.

"Skald Av Satans Sol" is noticeably different from the first two songs, and yet the same. Words can hardly do justice to the brilliance contained here. The guitar work here is absolutely perfect and the vocals could not have been done better. There's even a brief solo at the end of the song, before everything fades to white noise.

"Slottet I Det Fjerne" is next and features the most sorrowful melodies on the whole album. The title translates to "Castle in the Distance" and the song tells the tale of blind people living in joy and peace, unknowing the dark fate that awaits them and the torment that they will soon suffer. From the grim shadows, the dark ones are consumed with hatred for these people and await the time when they shall rejoice in their pain.

"Graven Tåkeheimens Saler" is next and it is no less impressive than the previous song. The freezing harmonies and spiteful vocals tell a tale, written by Varg Vikernes, filled with sorrow and inspired by Norse mythology. Since he was incarcerated, Darkthrone allowed Varg to contribute lyrics to their album as a means of letting him speak from beyond, so to speak.

"I En Hall Med Flesk Og Mjød" is very straightforward, yet contains one of the few changes in tempo, throughout the whole album. A slight bit of Hellhammer influence creeps in, briefly. Up until this point, their influences were much less pronounced than on A Blaze in the Northern Sky or Under A Funeral Moon. The style on Transilvanian Hunger is all Darkthrone.

The next song is very repetitive, droning and hypnotic. "As Flittermice As Satans Spys" seems to take the idea that was attempted with "Inn I De Dype Skogers Favn" and perfected it. There is no lack of inspiration or feeling here. This song creates a lot of tension as the album is heading toward its inevitable end. The bitter cold harmonies freeze the very blood in your veins.

"Unholy he who burned the face of god...with the eye of our master."

At the end of the song is a back ward message that says, "In the name of god, let the churches burn."

"En Ås I Dype Skogen" is tied with "Transilvanian Hunger" as the best song on this record. Sometimes, it is difficult to decide on a favorite song, but this one contains my favorite riffs and vocal lines on the whole album. Much like the rest of the album, the song is fast-paced. The melodies are mournful and cold. The tension from the previous song has carried over and has continued to build up to the climax of the entire album, as the song progresses. At this point, the cold steel is pressed against your flesh, waiting... just waiting. The time is near. The melody continues and the blade begins to penetrate your skin. The moment is now at hand to be released, to open your veins. A possessed scream is followed by the line:

"...ut av den dype skogen."

The blood flows from your veins and turns the snow red. The song winds down. Your spirit has been released and is now free to wander the endless depths of the forest. It's all over, and you will never be the same again...

Darkthrone - Under A Funeral Moon (1993)


After releasing the classic A Blaze in the Northern Sky, Darkthrone began working on the follow-up, taking their time to perfectly craft every melody, every note; to create nothing less than pure, freezing cold Black Metal. While Fenriz mentions the presence of "fucking Death Metal riffs" that crept into the previous album, due to time constraints, this is where the band completed the dark metamorphosis. Under A Funeral Moon is one of the most grim and morbid recordings ever made. The Celtic Frost vibe seems absent here, replaced by even more Bathory worship. (In one interview, Nocturno Culto actually mentions taking Under the Sign of the Black Mark into the studio to give the producer an idea of the sound they wanted.) However, to imply that this entire album is simply derivative of what came before would be an error. Darkthrone came into their own, in many ways, on this album. While their influences are still obvious, there is a lot on this album that is neither Hellhammer nor Bathory, but rather pure Darkthrone.

This is raw and minimal, like nothing before. A Blaze In the Northern Sky was primitive yet very powerful and thunderous. The drum work on Under A Funeral Moon is quite different. Despite being exceptionally talented (as was certainly displayed on Soulside Journey) Fenriz showed a deeper understanding of what Black Metal is supposed to be and toned it down. The drums are basic and also lower in the mix than on the last album. They are there only to keep the song going forward. The focus here is on the guitar melodies. The guitars are much thinner and the bass is actually audible, maintaining a doomy feeling throughout much of the album. Despite the fuzzy guitar sound, everything is remarkably clear. Every note can be heard. Nocturno Culto's vocals are supported by a healthy amount of reverb and he sounds like he has just risen from a grave.

"Natassja In Eternal Sleep" is a fast paced song, with a mournful and repetitive tremolo melody that is accompanied by hauntingly sorrowful lyrics. The mood is evil yet also mournful, as the lyrics tell the story of a dead witch. Musically, this is a perfect example of, what would become known as, the typical Darkthrone sound.

"Summer of the Diabolical Holocaust" continues on at full speed, until midway through the song. This is when the bass becomes quite audible and the listener is overcome with a morbid grave lust. The eerie solo is very reminiscent of Bathory. This slower section of the song has a similar feel to Mayhem's "Freezing Moon".

What follows this is one of the most morbid riffs, as "The Dance of Eternal Shadows" begins. Nocturno Culto truly sounds as if he is calling out from the grave. The song begins very slowly, before picking up with the fast tremolo melodies. The song slows down again, near the end, as the feeling of death fills the air. As life fades, hell awaits. This song is very chilling, to say the least.

"I am ready...for the god below."

"Unholy Black Metal" is very fast and serves to bring a bit of life back to an album otherwise steeped in death and morbidity. The somber atmospheres and mournful melodies take a break and the listener is able to pull the knife away from their throat and let go of it for a moment. This song is very minimal, and could not have been more appropriately named. The old Bathory vibe is very clear, particularly in the brief solo. But this influence would get much stronger as the song ends...

"To Walk the Infernal Fields" has to be seen as a tribute to Bathory's "Enter the Eternal Fire", borrowing some riffs. This is the longest song on the album, and returns to the mournful and depressive atmosphere that prevails elsewhere on Under A Funeral Moon. Much like "Enter the Eternal Fire" this song is midpaced, with subtle melodies underneath the main riff. Late in the song, everything slows way down and it feels like a funeral march, with thunderous drums and cymbals leading the way to the nocturnal graveland. As you gaze into the abyss, certain of your own doom, the main riff returns and pulls you away from the edge.

“With my art, I am the fist in the face God.”

The next song erupts from the darkened abyss like a horde of demons. "Under A Funeral Moon" possesses some of the best riffs on the album, as well as lyrics that are absolutely perfect for the atmosphere that is being created. If it is possible for one song to embody everything that is great about an album, this would be the one. The Bathory-esque solo is bone chilling and the vocals could not sound more deathly and demonic. The slower section in the middle is brilliant and really takes the listener down, deeper and deeper. The story being told is that of a nocturnal ritual, leading through the gates of death and beyond. There are some very cold riffs here, foreshadowing what is to come on the following release, but this album fills my mind less with imagery of Winter forests and more with grim cemeteries, funeral torches and an overpowering lust for death and Hell.

"Inn I De Dype Skogers Favn" is very repetitive and feels less inspired than the rest of the album. It is not bad, but simply not as interesting as the other songs. There are some tempo changes, but there is something lacking from this one.

"Crossing the Triangle of Flames" really feels like it is dragging you down to Hell. The fast tremolo riffs and hateful vocals dominate the song, while Fenriz employs some interesting variation with the drums. Then the song slows down, and the guitar is nearly alone with only sparse drum fills. The riff is actually similar to something that one would find on a Burzum album and definitely has the trademark Norwegian sound. As cold winds sweep over the desolate graveland, Nocturno Culto snarls:

"I am Lucifer!"

Then the bells begin to toll. A slow, morbid riff repeats as the album fades out, leaving only the chiming of the funeral bells. With the funeral moon illuminating the cold landscape, the nocturnal rituals have been performed and the listener now finds himself face to face with his dark master, leaving all traces of life and light behind. This is Black Metal. This is the feeling that it is meant to convey.

Darkthrone - A Blaze in the Northern Sky (1992)


In 1991, while working on their second album for Peaceville Records, Darkthrone abandoned the path that had been cleared for them and wandered into the desolate forests. They achieved a decent amount of success with their debut album, Soulside Journey, and they were soon to follow it up with another brilliant Death Metal album. Truth be told, as a Death Metal band, they crushed the majority of their peers in Scandinavia. However, three of the four members felt that a change was needed. Inspired by the ancient ones that had gone before them, such as Bathory, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost and Mayhem, they scrapped the material for the Goatlord album and began creating something primitive and dark.

From the frozen landscape of the bitter cold Northland, A Blaze in the Northern Sky took the metal world by surprise. It met with some resistance, before it was even released. Bassist, Dag Nilsen, was not pleased with the change in musical direction and was unceremoniously expelled from the band. However, since he did have a hand in the songwriting, to some degree, the other members felt that it was only right that he play on the album as a session musician. Once it was completed, Peaceville seemed displeased in what they heard, since they were expecting a Death Metal album. They showed no understanding of Black Metal and wanted the album to be remixed because it wasn't heavy enough. Even the aesthetics were completely different. Rather than a painting for the cover, they used a grim photo of Zephyrous in the cemetery, during one of their nocturnal rituals. Real names had been abandoned in favor of pseudonyms. Perhaps taking inspiration from Dead, who had killed himself just months earlier, they now wore corpsepaint. They were no longer the Death Metal band that Peaceville had initially signed. Darkthrone remained firm in their convictions and knew that if Peaceville didn't want to release the album, they could fall back on Euronymous and his label, Deathlike Silence Productions. Not wanting to lose a recently signed band to some tiny label, Peaceville agreed to release the album as it was, and the second wave of Black Metal was officially unleashed.

The album begins with "Kathaarian Life Code". The intro starts out with a low drone, and a thundering bass drum, followed by a slow and ominous chanting in the background. The atmosphere that is created by this has to be heard to be truly understood, words do not do this justice. Soon after Fenriz’s tortured vocals come in over this in something of a spoken word form, filled with hate, yet giving the impression that he is being strangled.

The song erupts with furious violence, guitars extremely fuzzy, drums creating a violent wall of sound. It is quite reminiscent Vader's Necrolust demo. As for the vocals, Nocturno Culto emits some of the most demonic sounds ever recorded. He sounds possessed by the forces of evil. His vocals are much more raspy and grim than on the previous album. The song does not maintain the fury for too long before going into a more mid-paced Celtic Frost-inspired riff. The tempo changes aid in ensuring that such a lengthy song never becomes repetitive. Already, one gets the feeling that this could have, easily, been released five years earlier. This is total primitive Black Metal, the way it was meant to be. The final guitar melody of the song is about as cold as it gets.

"In the Shadow of the Horns" is next, and this continues the Celtic Frost worship. But this is much uglier than anything on Morbid Tales. The brief solos on this album remind me a bit of some old Bathory, though Nocturno Culto says he was greatly influenced by Death's Scream Bloody Gore. However, that may have been only in regard to Soulside Journey. The song really shows its brilliance as it speeds up, with the tremolo riffs and blasting drums accompanying Nocturno Culto as he channeled the voice of the night, itself. Most people really enjoy the mid-paced parts, but I think the fast melody is the best part. Late in the song, an acoustic guitar is played over everything else, and the effect is perfect.

"Paragon Belial" opens with riffs worthy of an old Bathory release. Not long into the song, riffs from the aborted Goatlord session bleed in. They try their best to play these horror Death Metal riffs in a Black Metal style, but they certainly stick out. However, the later part of the song more than makes up for this, with a somewhat mournful and epic vibe taking over. As the song slows down, Nocturno Culto's tortured voice howls:

"My flesh yearns...for the tombworld."

The slow, somber riffs that end this song are very memorable and create a dark and gloomy atmosphere. It feels like a good song to die to.

"Where Cold Winds Blow" is another fast, freezing cold Black Metal song. The main riff seems to have the purpose of hypnotizing the listener and preparing them to be possessed. As the tempo changes from blistering fast to somewhat mid-paced, the hatred in Nocturno Culto's vocals flows out like venom. Musically, there is a strong Bathory and Mayhem influence on this song, with this track best representing the sound that would soon become identified with the Norwegian scene. As the pace picks up a bit, the melody is very memorable and inspires one with a sense of dread, before the thundering drums and droning guitars return. There are a few instances where the guitars are left alone, with no drumming or vocals, which does well to really convey a sense of frozen solitude. So far, this album isn't just paying homage to the old Black Metal bands, it's killing them slowly while setting a new standard.

The title track continues in much the same fashion, opening with a venomous fury before settling into a Bathory-esque mid-paced Black Metal riff. That's not to say that the album is nothing but Bathory and Celtic Frost worship. They take a good deal of influence from the old bands, while also infusing that with their own creative direction, which is what makes this album so special. This song already existed during the Goatlord sessions, but it was adapted for this album with the Black Metal opening. The slow melody, near the middle, creates a dark and eerie feeling as a morbid voice calls out:

"The next thousand years are OURS!"

The song ends with a perfectly placed guitar solo, which adds to the atmosphere. The end is near.

"The Pagan Winter" brings things to a proper conclusion, starting with a bitter dismal riff that has a gloomy feeling, before transitioning to something more inspired by Bathory. Brilliant, freezing cold melodies, perfectly timed tempo changes, excellent vocals and a hellish guitar solo make this quite a memorable song and a good way to end the album. This song possesses an epic feeling and produces mental images of traveling through a desolate wintry landscape, in the light of the full moon, on the way toward a cold grave. The Celtic Frost riffs near the end are well done, also.

The ominous chant that began the album now returns, thus ending this masterpiece of Norwegian Black Metal. While Mayhem, Burzum and Immortal were all working on albums, Darkthrone was the first to release anything and were responsible for unleashing the fury from the north that would soon spread across the world, like an ancient plague.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tiamat - Sumerian Cry (1990)


I first discovered Tiamat, back in high school, when I was trading mix tapes with my Latvian penpal. I was introduced to this band because she included a couple songs from the Clouds album. At the time, I was listening to a lot of melodic stuff from Europe, including Hypocrisy's The Fourth Dimension and Tales From the Thousand Lakes by Amorphis. When I actually sought out Clouds, I was a little disappointed and found it difficult to get into. But then I read about how their older stuff was completely different. That's when I discovered Sumerian Cry.

Sumerian Cry is the first full-length album from Sweden's Tiamat, rising from the ashes of Treblinka. There is a bit of debate regarding the style of music presented on this album, which features tremolo riffs (which were common with Swedish Death Metal bands), blastbeats and a morbid vocal style. The inverted crosses, corpsepaint and spikes should also signal that the band was still striving to create Black Metal, in the same vein as Samael, Grotesque and Imperator. As a matter fact, this is not so far removed from what Mayhem were doing around this same time.

On the other hand, this was recorded in Sunlight Studio and that is very obvious. It has a very similar sound to the early albums from Entombed, Carnage/Dismember and even Soulside Journey by Darkthrone. However, as a point of reference, this album is much more primitive than Darkthrone's debut. Stylistically, there are elements of Black, Death, Thrash and Doom Metal here. While Tiamat does utilize various elements, the aesthetics, lyrics and overall atmosphere seem to be more in tune with early Black Metal.

Sumerian Cry was recorded during late October 1989, making Tiamat one of the first of the well known Swedish bands to record in Sunlight Studio. As previously indicated, the tempo changes quite a bit, throughout the recording, but the blastbeat seems to be fairly consistent. The guitars have the typical, heavy Swedish sound and Hellslaughter's vocals sound possessed! The sinister whispers also add to the darkened atmosphere. The songwriting is pretty primitive, but there are moments that foreshadow the band's more melodic and mature efforts.

The album begins with a short synth/acoustic intro, before the crushing guitars come in and "In the Shrines of the Kingly Dead" is unleashed. This song really sets the tone for the whole album. As a matter of fact, one can notice that this album may have influenced others in the scene, as some of the ideas that were briefly touched upon were later borrowed and expanded upon by other bands, such as Edge of Sanity and even Marduk, on Dark Endless. "The Malicious Paradise" stands out as one of the best songs on here, as well as "Nocturnal Funeral" and "Altar Flame". Two-thirds of the way through this album, one would assume that it is a very solid effort and worthy of some praise...

However, I will warn everyone to avoid the song "Evilized". It had potential to be a decent Black Metal song, but there's some sort of jazz section (yes, I said fucking JAZZ) halfway through. I don't know what the Hell happened there and it was most unexpected. The first time I listened to this, I actually thought the CD player had switched to 'radio' or something. Sadly, this was a harbinger of things to come. Why they had to taint such a good album is beyond me, but it's only a minute or so. Still, I recommend just skipping past this song, entirely.

They salvage the album with the godly "Where the Serpents Ever Dwell/Sumerian Cry pt. 2". This song is extremely slow and doom-laden. The riffs create a very dismal and somber atmosphere. This one song sits alongside "The Malicious Paradise" as the best songs on this album and, possibly, my favorite Tiamat songs.

I strongly recommend this L.P. for fans of late 80s/early 90s Black Metal, such as Mayhem, Samael, Imperator, Grotesque and Necromantia. I would also recommend this for fans of early Swedish Death Metal albums, such as Left Hand Path, Dark Recollections, Into the Grave, Like An Everflowing Stream, Nothing But Death Remains and Where No Life Dwells, though it is best to keep in mind that this album possesses a much darker atmosphere than any of those could hope for.