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Holy Blood
The Wanderer
January 2006
Released: 2002, Bombworks Records
Rating: 3.0/5
Reviewer: Gabriel C. Zolman

The Russian Black Metal scene was a truly vicious site (and sound) in the mid-nineties. It was downright scary, some have said. Holy Blood, therefore, must be given credit for standing out amongst their peers with their somewhat unusual (for BM) ideology (the band is, apparently, Russian Orthodox, as opposed to “elite hellspawn slaves of Satan’s grim infernal warrior cult,” like everyone else). That aside, this will be an adventure for pretty much anyone—the CD is eccentric, but not without significant payoff; and the lyrics are in Russian anyway. So deal.

Reminiscent of Belarian hopefuls Asguard in parts, the guitars are nice and crunchy, but with loads of great Euro-style harmonies, that frequently gallop along like vintage Priest. Great soloing—nonstop, really. Vocals range from deep Death Metal growls to standard Black Metal screeches, which are growled and screeched entirely in Russian. There is also a female vocalist who stands off to the side and goes “La la la” every so often. It’s the little things, I suppose.

Diversity is the apparent goal on this CD (a reissue of the bands 2002 debut). The band has two modes: Straightforward and Insane. When on Straightforward, the material is competent, but only rarely special. When phasers are set on “Crazy And Drooling,” however, the band transcends their genre trappings, and though there is more than an occasional misstep, it’s certainly never boring for a second.

There is a bizarre, almost playful riff that opens the song “Kill,” before it pours into a tight Dimmu Borgir rubber jumpsuit. Yet no matter how hard the vocalist and keyboardist squeeze into their latex, the rest of the band seem intent on playing thrash and old school death. It’s often as if the entire band is playing a different song, and yet—by sheer happy accident—the whole thing syncs up in the most offbeat yet delightful way.

“The Warrior” is somewhat less effective, with its angry muppet vocals and schizophrenic melodies. Herein is the clencher: when this works, it’s absolutely brilliant…but it when it doesn’t, it’s a confusing mess of misplaced intentions and overwrought campaigns to cover any ground not yet approached. This is the best explanation one might offer for the out-of-nowhere Celtic instrumentation on the mid-album instrumental, “Morning.” It’s great, and the lead guitarist seems intent on channeling Seventh Angel’s Ian Arkley; but in the context of the album, it seems like someone playing Finntroll while the band prepares its next experiment.

“On Drakkars Of Fire” reminds me of Oathean a bit. The rolling r’s from the singer’s tongue are lethal, spittle-laden daggers; there’s personality there. Oh, and did I mention that they never stop soloing?

Despite the more agonizing Blackened vocals on display on “In The Lake Of Fire,” the latter portion of the track could very easily be a Skyforger rehearsal. The band really makes the most of their dual guitar harmonies here. “Cold Winds” begins with a chugging, confident thrash pace. This is the best of the band’s “Straightforward” pieces, almost despite the presence of a Viking choir. Apparently mistaking themselves for Aborym or DHG, the band included a techno remix of “Kill,” in the event the listener was not entirely disoriented by album’s end. I liked it, but then I’m an utter bastard who enjoys inflicting pain on others. Caveat emptor, really.

For all its well-meant missteps, this is ridiculously creative, and bursting with talent and potential, melody and brutality. It’s actually worth tracking down, almost in spite of itself. Recommended for the bravest Black Metal warriors, bored Euro-Death completists, and any others who are naïve enough to trust me.
Track Listing

1. Bogatyr Gates In Capital Town In Kiev

2. The Wanderer

3. Kill

4. The Warrior

5. Morning

6. In The Lake Of Fire

7. The Poor World

8. The Dnieper

9. On Drakkares Of Fate

10. Cold Winds

11. Kill (Remix)


Fedor Buzilevich - Vocals/Guitar
Sergei Nagorny - Lead Guitar
Alexei Andrushenko ``Axxent`` - Bass
Dmitry Titorenko - Drums
Vladislav Malitskiy - Keyboard

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» The Wanderer
by Gabriel C. Zolman

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