|Review: Countess - Heilig Vuur|
Label: Barbarian Wrath
Year released: 2004
Genre: Black Metal
Review online: April 29, 2004
Reviewed by: Chaossphere
Rated 3.25/5 (65%) (8 Votes)
Ah yes, the deranged genius that is Countess. As far as overall output goes, they're one of the few bands that somehow manages to achieve a totally hit-and-miss track record and STILL comes up with something worth listening to, every single time. Some Countess discs are somewhat overshadowed by others, but even at their weakest (The Gospel Of The Horned One and The Revenge Of The Horned One Part II in particular) you're always guaranteed a mind-fucking black metal experience.
Heilig Vuur, on the other hand, has turned out to be the strongest Countess disc since the monumental The Book Of The Heretic epic in terms of musical content, and the most sonically impressive since Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam. Of course, the buzzing rawness is still ever-present, but this is far more refined than the sludge-ridden slime of The Shining Swords Of Hate, and lacks the excessive low-end of the Revenge... albums. Instead, Orlok's single-handed instrumentation saws away in near-total clarity, with only the vocals being obscured by a veil of distortion, as well as being somewhat buried in the mix. Not to worry though - all the lyrics are in Dutch this time, so to a non-speaker of that language, the vocals are merely another instrument.
As for the actual music, well, like I said before, this is the strongest in years. It avoids the weird experimentation of the last few efforts, and while it's not as textured as The Book..., there's still plenty here to sink one's teeth into. Of course, the opener Bloed Voor Wodan opens with the exact same disharmonic synth noise which has started every Countess album right from the start, this time leading into a slow-building crescendo riff, which explodes right into a vicious howl of a song.
The title track is a bit faster and not quite as heavy, instead focusing on the traditional loping-verse/pounding chorus formula, while De Wilde Jacht builds from a creepy bass/drum intro into a menacing, lycanthropic outburst of hatred.
All the elements you'd expect are present and accounted for - the old-school 80's black metal riffing, overdriven atmospheric lead guitar, simplistic-yet-effective drum machine, and of course the brilliantly cheesy schlock-horror keyboards which permeate the music.
Of course, I couldn't conclude this review without mentioning the monumental epic of a finale, Schemering Der Goden, a 14-minute monster of a track (apparently written quite a while before the recording of the album), which easily ranks up there with past epics like "All The Master's Children"and "The Wrath Of Satan's Whore", crushing all in its path with its storming metallic purity. It's songs like these that truly elevate Countess to the upper echolon of black metal's finest. Well, that and the fact that absolutely no one sounds like them, nor does it seem to possible for any band to even attempt to replicate their unique sound. As usual, this is limited to 666 copies, so if you've ever enjoyed any of Countess's past works, you'd be wise to snap one up before it's gone for good.
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