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VARIOUS ARTISTS


"Blackend IV" (Metal Blade/Blackend)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

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"Blackend IV" is the latest installment in Metal Blade's black metal samplers.  I'm impressed that a label such as Metal Blade, under the Blackend banner, would compile a roster of bands within a genre from other labels (including, but not limited to Necropolis, Candlelight, Misanthropy, Moonfog, Spinefarm, and Solistitium).  Kudos to Metal Blade for being brave enough to provide samplers like this - it's almost like inviting the competition to set up in your own store.

The 24 tracks here cut a wide swath of the black metal genre. Everything from operatic touches, traditional metal influences, hints of death metal, and classic metal grooves find their way into the various songs.  Black metal is a very curious music form.  It's like having a violent storm and a beautiful rainbow within each song. Cataclysmic shifts in tempo are a defining feature of this musical form and nearly every single track displays a penchant for excessive drama.   It is also interesting to note that almost every single band is from Europe and Scandinavia.

Disc One is the more consistent of this two CD set.  Witchery commences the proceedings with high energy and traditional metal leanings with "Witchery" (following in the tradition of Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden with a song title of their own name). Myrkskog's "A Poignant Scenario Of Death" wins this disc's cool song title award, but does little more than provide a decent example of mid-paced black/death mongrel. Usurper's "Dismal Wings Of Terror" is a decent slab of delirious terror while Hecate Enthroned's "Thy Sorrow Bequeathed" adds a more gothic overtone to the mix while remaining brutally intense.  Primordial's "Atumnus Ablaze" is a striking epic that proves sorrow alone can carry an eight-minute tune. Thorn's "The Discipline Of Earth" sounds like what would happen if Slayer decided to play black metal - heavily eerie with precision timing and a sense of melody. Emperor's contribution, "Decrystallizing Reason," is yet another impeccable and tantalizing offering from the kings of black metal. Prophanity take thrash-like riffs into black metal with good production values with "Awaiting The Valkyries Arrival." Odium's "Towards The Forest" has grand musical vision that rises above the typical black metal growls. Misfortune add medieval touches to "The Prophecy."  Ashes, not to be confused with the hardcore band of the same name, make an impact with "Son Of Mourning." Closing out the first disc is "The Amen Corner" from Opeth; this remarkable piece of work navigates every slice of the musical spectrum as everything is woven into a cohesive musical journey as the band carves a deeper niche for its eclectic brand of black metal.

Disc Two has mixed results.  Limbonic Art, which had previously impressed me with "Though Gleams Of Death" on Blackend III, goes on far too long with their tiresome "A Demonoid Virtue." Unfortunately, the next track "In Chains Until Ragnarok" by Enslaved didn't do much for me either.   Myrkskog's second contribution on this compilation is nothing to write home about - the music is a dense, noisy blur that goes nowhere fast.  "The Past Is Like A Funeral" from Behemoth, despite its death metal growling, is a robust chunk of black metal with a hard rock edge. The somber, reverb-laden "I Breathe Without Access To Air" from Peccatum contains operatic vocals - if anything, this song provides a quick respite.  Diabolical Masquerade meld keyboards and guitars into a hybrid of black metal and power metal.  Darkwoods My Betrothed's  "Inside The Circle Of Stones" has lush sections to counteract the standard death metal sections; acoustic guitars also give the song depth. Thy Serpent's "Circle Of Pain" is also a decent track that continues to demonstrate Finland's recent and impressive ascent to the ranks of black metal's finest exporters. Witchery's second contribution, "Awaiting The Exorcist," generates enough tension and fierce traditional metal musicianship to peel paint off walls. Carpathian Forest's "Death Triumphant" is an evil excursion down a path of doom. Opeth's "Demon Of The Fall" is another shining example of how black metal can be entrancing while retaining many forms of metal's various forms. Closing out the disc is an artistic and crafty piece by the underrated Ancient Rites that begs to be heard; "Fatherland" combines black metal and traditional metal riffs in a dramatic delivery.

To summarize I'd have to say the highlights are provided by Opeth, Emperor, Ancient Rites, Thorns, Ashes, and Witchery. But with 24 tracks and 21 bands to choose from there's no doubt that at least a few tracks will impress you.

It's always difficult to rate compilation albums.  I'll stick with the two and a half chainsaws rating due to the large number of tunes on the second CD that don't quite make the mark. The lack of liner notes is also very disappointing; I view compilations as a big advertisement and not providing liner notes is a cardinal sin (especially when information on these bands on the Internet is difficult to find). However, there are a multitude of great tunes here that will coerce and ease the casual metal listener into a style of metal that receives little press and virtually no radio airplay.

Visit the Metal Blade homepage at http://metalblade.iuma.com/ to learn more about their roster of black metal bands.


Rating Guide:

retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes) A classic. This record will kick your ass.

retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes) Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes) So-so. You've heard better.

retinysaw.gif (295 bytes) Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

restinks.jpg (954 bytes) Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright 1999 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08 Jan 2016 11:33:10 -0500.