Released: 2004, Moribund Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Those black metal fans who thought that the early Darkthrone albums were over-produced need look no further than this little slice of Hell from Sargeist and Horned Almighty. With each band contributing four tracks, the old-school black metal is out in full corpse-painted, shrieked vocal, tinny-produced, Christ-raping force. The minimalist black-on-black packaging (with the exception of full lyrics—you’ll need ‘em!) and the aura of pure evil is enough to put a frown on any church burners face for 35 minutes, too.
Finland’s Sargeist lost the virgin toss and goes first but for even the most hardcore black metal fan, these tracks are a chore to sit through. Hoath Torog’s incomprehensible shriek is buried way back in the mix and makes a Burzum album sound like a Bob Rock production. The music on “In Ruin & Despair” is ultra-fast with the simple riffing of Shatraug and scads of blastbeats from Horns. There is nothing exceptional about that track to even warrant further mention. “Questing The Blessing of Evil” fares much better with a slower (dare I utter it?!) groove but the real gem here is “At The Altar of The Beast.” Thick, chunky, buzzsaw riffs sit atop the hyperspeed blasting and Torog’s shrieks begin to settle into a pattern as one song is basically interchangeable with the next. Sargeist do what they do well but if I’m looking for tin-can production and unending grimness, I’ll dust off my old copy of WRATH OF THE TYRANT or A BLAZE IN THE NORTHERN SKY, thank you very much.
Denmark’s Horned Almighty is less old-school than Sargeist and may be a tough sell to the die-hards. Their sound owes more to Venom than Darkthrone and Smerte’s vocals can (almost) be heard above the din of slapdash riffs and blastbeats. Not to say that the Horned Almighty have been given the full studio treatment because they are certainly raw but Sargeist foregoes anything resembling production. “Skullsplitting Manifest” is a mid-paced thrasher that would not be out of place on an early Bathory or Venom release. “Degradation Song” takes a bit of a left turn with its vomited vocals, doom-y riffs and distinct cymbal hits. The blasting doesn’t really come in until the 3:00 mark which by this point is a relief to the cranium. The problem with Horned Almighty is that they sound more like a third-rate Venom tribute band than anything else and again, if that’s what I’m looking for, I’ll pull out BLACK METAL or WELCOME TO HELL first.
I suppose this split CD will find its audience and many would probably pick it up based on the cover alone but it is becoming increasingly difficult to recommend a CD whose essence is rooted in a style that was played out almost ten years ago. I mean, black metal essentially ended with the death of Euronymous anyway so seeing bands like Sargeist emerging with new material now is viewed more as a tribute than anything else. As for Horned Almighty…well, I’d love to hear their version of “In League With Satan” or “Witching Hour”!
KILLER KUTS: “Questing The Blessed Evil,” “At The Altar of The Beast,” “Degradation Song”