Sword of Revenge
Released: 1999, Last Episode Records
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
OK, picture this. You’re a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed American power metal fanatic in Europe for the first time. You’ve just gone into the Virgin Megastore in Paris, and you’ve soiled your undies at the sight of all the obscure European metal you’ve come across. You spy a CD on which is a painting of a Viking-looking fellow in a horned helmet, skull emblem and carrying a huge sword. Clouds of smoke rise from a war-ruined landscape in the background. You’re certain this is true power metal the way it was meant to be. You grab, you buy, you take it home in your luggage, and you listen – then you write a review for Metal-Rules.com!
But wait! The production is shit! In fact, it sounds like the thing was recorded in Uncle Vic’s auto detailing shop after hours! Hmm…there’s some blast beats, and a long (4-minute) intro track which sounds suspiciously like it’s leading up to a black metal explosion, and then finally, with the second track (titled “Listen to the Cry of the Banshee”), the familiar cat-screechy sound of northern European Mayhem-style black metal confirms it. Not power metal – black metal! Finally you get curious enough to take out the jewel-case insert and study it. No lyrics, no credits, just large pictures of four Teutonic blokes whose flowing hair is so perfect that they all look like they’re competing for a role in a Pantene commercial, except for the pentagram the size of a motorcycle wheel hanging from the lead vocalist’s neck.
Oh, yeah…the music! Um…sure…well, it’s more screechy black metal, but there are some rewarding melodies buried in the poor production and black metal clichés. In fact, some musicianship – particularly when they slow down the pace and lose the blast beats – which is pretty respectable. “Kingdom of Morning Souls” yields some good atmospheric stuff, although it is keyboard-heavy; “Graveyard of Souls” churns up some punishing, rollicking black metal fun; the galloping riffs on “Black Wings of Death” sound almost thrash metal; “Fleisch Und Blut” is complete pap, though. There are some other tracks here which offer various levels of interest, but Anoras never quite punches things up to the next level. You’re vaguely disappointed. Grumbling about never again buying an album based on the cover illustration, you file Anoras away in your CD collection.
But not long after, something compels you to take it out and give it another shot. Actually it’s not bad. Yes, these four Germans take themselves way too seriously, and every black metal convention is lined up and shot down like tin cut-outs at a shooting gallery, but you actually find yourself liking it. You can’t even explain it, which is why your review is something of a cop-out. You wind up giving the album a 3 overall, with a veiled caveat to your readers (assuming you have any) that if they are able to find this rare gem, and if they’re willing to shell out their hard-earned Deutschmarks to some unknown record company to get it, they may find it pretty uninspiring stuff. Then again, they may not! They may be smart enough to notice, at first glance, that in the war-ruined background on the cover, there is clearly pictured a church in flames, which should have been a dead tip-off as to what kind of metal it was. Fortunately, not all of your readers are as gullible as you are.