A Touch Of Medieval Darkness
Released: 1995, Merciless
Hidden Gem Review
At the request of some of our readers to review a bit more Black Metal, I dug through my vaults and dug out a quartet of debut albums by European Black Metal albums that were all recorded in 1995. They are Demonic (Norway), Desaster (Germany), Manic Butcher (Czech) and Veles (Poland). Enjoy.
An early signing of Merciless records, Desaster seem to have been around forever. This is their first of several albums but the only one I own, so I have little frame of reference to compare with their other releases.
Fairly standard packaging and presentation greet our eyes, with a decent booklet, good photos, lyrics, notes and a classic logo by Szpajdel who incidentally did the Demonic logo as well. The band appears in full battle gear and there are a couple of nice shots of ancient ruins in black, white and gray. Classic.
Infernal, Okkulto and Odin (dumb name, too pretentious and blasphemic) and session drummer Tobias deliver the goods, namely 51 minutes and 10 tracks of …medieval darkness! It is quite long for a black metal CD actually. The songs were written by Okkulto over a period of 1992-1995 and generally focus on standard (maybe even substandard) themes of Dracula, revenge, battles and so on. The lyrics are dark and quasi-evil but not specifically religious, pagan or otherwise. Purists might say they are a little too close to Bathory for comfort but enjoyable nonetheless to more forgiving fans.
The CD starts with a fairly traditional, quiet, understated, keyboard instrumental with what seems to be subtle male vocals buried in the background, although it could be also more keys. It is atmospheric and ominous but perhaps a little too long. The production on this is bleak and murky. The whole production is echo-y and thin especially the snare and bass drum. It lacks punch and unfortunately detracts a bit form the overall impact. I like Occulto’s voice, it has a nice combination of hiss, yell and croak. It reminds oddly of Quorthon in places but then he’ll break into these demonic deep roars that are unsettling. Production aside they have a nice melody to them, which sounds odd but the mostly mid-tempo songs have a good flow and ebb to them. There are also flourishes of medieval styles of music, as you would expect especially on the title track, almost like Skyclad gone evil. The song-writing is more interesting and innovative than some which may turn off those in seek of the purest form of brutality, but I thought it added a nice flavour to a band in a crowded genre.