Released: 2004, Intolerant Messiah
American black metal has few standard-bearers; most are okay with drowning in the corpse paint of their forefathers and add no innovation to the genre to keep it interesting. While the genre as a whole has always held limited appeal to me, a new brood of American black metal bands are crawling out of the underground such as Ludicra, Goatwhore, and Fall Of The Bastards. All of whom possess enough talent and hold varied enough influences to stir things up and make you remember why change is a good thing. Fall Of The Bastards, who recently released their second full length CD/LP DUSK OF AN ANCIENT AGE on Intolerant Messiah take the northern chills of black metal and dose it up with a healthy shot of thrash riffery and epic doom to great results.
The promise that was initially shown on the Portland, OR group's debut LP WHERE DEAD HANG FROM TREE’S comes one large leap closer to fruition on DUSK OF AN ANCIENT AGE. The guitar work from Donnie Of The Dead and Sir Colin Keyworth shows a real depth of composition and sense of might previously unseen from American black metal bands. It almost seems as though while Fall Of The Bastards is strictly a black metal band, that the guitarists may not be directly influenced by but certainly listen to a lot of European power metal. This comes out especially in standout tracks like "Idiocy Parade" which begins with a Maiden-esque guitarfest before switching gears into the bands blustery sweeping chord progressions. Vocals provided by Jason Voorhees show an impressive range from black metal scream to a unique guttural howl and he utilizes them in a way so that the vocals never become grating or over-done. Also of note is the top notch drumming by Rudimentary Eli who executes flawless blast beats and double bass thunder and keeps the ever-evolving nature of the songs in check, and the solid bass work of Fat Scott who gives more effort into bass lines then most black metal bands allow. Other standout tracks are "Otherwise Blank Expression" in it's relentlessness, and "Intrinsical Lost" with it's subtle guitar lines which keep the blasting from becoming boring. After 7 tracks of gloriously grim treks through misanthropy and death, the album closes out with the sound of a babbling brook and a subdued guitar/mandolin instrumental piece called Dawn showing the guitarists flair for medieval melody which would be wonderful to see expanded further upon on future releases.
The only complaints I have about this album mostly involve the production. While it does maintain realness by doing so, the odd string noise or stick click you hear from time to time can also come off as just a bit unprofessional. And while the album does have great mixing, personally I felt it suffered a bit by having a hard separation of guitars in the L and R channels which at times can be a little confusing since the guitar work often has so much going on. The LP version of this release (available in black and mud colored vinyl) has wonderfully blasphemous artwork which shows a sense of taste and class often lacking in black metal cover art. But overall, if you are a fan of blackened thrash, black metal, or even some of you more open minded death metal freaks, then you should certainly keep a look out for Fall Of The Bastards in the future, it's a name that you're likely to start hearing a lot more soon.