Thursday, July 14, 2016

CD Review: COUNTESS Fires Of Destiny

Fires Of Destiny
I heard of Countess through their CDs The Return Of The Horned One and Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam (released in 1994 and ‘95 respectively). From spotting them by chance at a local store to trading for copies this was my first exposure to the band. Those albums were raw and simplistic black metal with horrific vocals that sounded torn from agonized sulphur filled lungs. I felt there was something personal about the songs; the overtones of isolation I gathered from the cover art drew me in. The music gave me impressions of old folk tales of vampires and other creatures of the night buried in stone. This stayed with me for some time after. While I still have those albums on tape I missed their subsequent releases from 1996 to the present. In that time twelve in all were made, including this one which I heard about out of nowhere when I got an email from vocalist Orlok with a download file. Remembering them from those days I jumped at a chance to check out Fires Of Destiny. Needless to say I was rewarded. Musically the band (Orlok on vocals/bass, Zagan on guitar, Häxa on keys and Mortüüm on drums) have improved as underground bands do when remaining together and developing their craft over the years. From the outset the overall sound is polished, the musicianship technically more proficient. There are more keyboards than I remember hearing, but again years have passed since I last heard them. The night creatures celebrated back then are now free of their confinement and unleashed upon the earth. Runeniled eases you into the band’s current direction with a keyboard-heavy theme recurring throughout. Personally I was reminded of Throne Of Ahaz, Demonic, Arckanum and Necromantia (Sweden, Norway, Sweden, Greece) to certain extents. These themes run through the songs that follow; add atmosphere similar to Amorphis (Sweden) and the cult like impressions described at the beginning and it’s an album well worth checking out. As far as standout cuts, “Rise Of The Horned One” and “Plague Of The Pious” most vividly personify the liberation from ancient imprisonment I mentioned. The latter especially reflects on blind faith in false religious promises. I gather from it that people eventually die as they live, whether by the sword on their knees. “Treason Of Kings” puts across a similar idea and holds man culpable for his hubris, making himself God and assuming no responsibility. Bard Van Het Verledenis the longest and most ambitious song here, running over nine minutes. Fires Of Destiny is available on download and Bandcamp, besides a limited edition (1000 copies) digipak. -Dave Wolff

Track list:
1. Runenlied
2. Fly The Battle Flag
3. Fires Of Destiny
4. Rise Of The Horned One
5. Plague Upon The Pious
6. Today Is A Good Day To Die
7. Choir Of The Valkyries
8. Treason Of Kings
9. See The Ravens Fly
10. Bard Van Het Verleden

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