Friday, January 30, 2009

Countess- Heilig Vuur

This is a one-man old-school black metal band from Holland. I heard about them ~7 years ago, reading the old LARM metal reviews website, and they (he) have gained a cult following with a self-proclaimed "Orthodox Black Metal" style. In what does this consist? Well, like label-mates Megiddo, the entire (and noble) aim is at the second and third Bathory albums. The production is obviously "cheap" and shitty but not "raw"--which is clever; while this production does not SOUND like the second and third Bathory albums, to fetishistically recreate that sound would be to misinterpret Bathory in a superficial "kult" way. Thankfully, Countess is smarter than that.

Unfortunately, the entire pleasure of Bathory's career arc--"Wow, this guy is surprisingly musical, even within his limitations!"--is negated by Countess's total lack of musicality. Listen closely: it is HORRIBLE. Weirdly, I like this record better than a lot of other stuff, because it is intellectually commendable, and also has a very "punk" quality that I can get behind--but even as tone-deaf and non-knowledgeable about music as I am, something is not quite right here. Like a highly-functional illiterate, Countess is good at hiding this lack of musicality, but it comes out especially in the painfully bad guitar solos.

The best metal bands--Judas Priest, Metallica, Burzum--are shockingly musical: their imaginations paint in melodies and harmonies that are astonishing and illuminating. Countess is just BAD. There's a lot to admire here, in terms of "the problem of nowadays black metal," but once you realize that music is really not a "first language" for Countess, it just sucks. Sorry.

Score: 1 star/ 5 (*)
Best songs: these songs when they were on "The Return..." and "Under the Sign..."

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