Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Satanic Warmaster - Opferblut (2003)

Opferblut is the second L.P. from the Finnish Black Metal band with the most ridiculous name ever, Satanic Warmaster. This project was created by former Horna vocalist (and heavy metal superstar of the cock-rock band, Armour), Nazgul aka Satanic Tyrant Werwolf. He has a special place between Kanwulf and Kvarforth in the Black Metal Hall of Shame. At any rate, this was unknown to me when I first acquired this album, and it should really have no bearing on the music presented here. In all honesty, a great number of musicians turn out to be dishonourable, degenerative scum, but that should have nothing to do with the music that they create.

The album begins with the song "Black Destiny". This starts off at full speed with fast tremolo riffs and blasting drums. Lord Sarcofagian did well to study the work of Fenriz, as the drumming is very similar and it is mixed at just the right level. The vocals are mixed well, also, not being too high or too low. Werwolf's style, as in Horna, seems to be quite similar to Hat and Pest, of Gorgoroth. The overall sound owes a lot to the early 90s Norwegian Black Metal scene. In particular, it would seem that these Finns are big Darkthrone fans. That certainly isn't a bad thing, as Darkthrone seemed to give up making that style of music a long time ago. Then again, why would they want to since there are thousands of other bands attempting to emulate them? This song actually features very nice tremolo melodies, memorable riffs and a good structure.

The next song is "Bound in Lust and Hate". This continues with the same fast pace as established on the first song, with very nice melodies, creating a sense of tension as the song builds in intensity. The riffs are very memorable and everything flows nicely. Again, there is nothing very original going on here. If anything, this is more of a tribute to some of the second wave bands. That being said, they do take that foundation and add a little something to it.

On "A Wolf Cries in Anger", the pace slows down a bit and the melodies take an overtly mournful tone. The sound is very similar to Sargeist's Satanic Black Devotion, even the effect on the vocals. While this is raw, it is a little more polished than the Sargeist album. It is also more melodic and not nearly as dark. Everything is executed well, yet there is nothing dangerous about this music. Despite this, it does have some redeeming qualities. The harmonies are very introspective and mournful at times. These will lurk in your mind for some time after listening. Perhaps the thing that Satanic Warmaster adds to the formulaic sound is a certain catchiness that is, somewhat, inherent when it comes to Finnish bands.

"Pentagram & Wood" features some very nice tremolo riffs. It seems strange that so many kids that are new to Black Metal embrace this band as some evil and obscure cult of darkness. Then again, it is easy to see how they are attracted to it as it is catchy and melodic. Each song has its own identity, which is a good thing. There is somewhat of an epic atmosphere created through the brilliant song arrangements. No, this is nothing you haven't heard before, but it is done pretty well.

"A Raven's Song" erupts from the shadows at full speed. Again, it must be noted that the drumming is very suitable for this style of music, being just high enough to keep time but low enough to not distract from the guitars. The simplistic bass lines can be heard, easily, as on Mayhem's De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. As the tempo changes, the unmistakable Finnish melodies are present, which may be the one thing that really sets this off from other bands that exist to pay tribute to the grim cults of Norway. The guitars really work to create a depressive feeling, though never utterly dismal. This song is among the more memorable ones on the album.

The next song is "Rain Falls", which is an instrumental in the vein of "Når Himmelen Klarner" from Burzum's Det Som Engang Var or even "Gjennom Skogen til Blåfjellene" from Isengard's Vinterskugge. This piece creates a very melancholic feeling and allows your mind to drift away into infinite thought.

"Farewell to the Fallen" begins with a total Celtic Frost vibe. After the first minute or so, this transitions to something more akin to Burzum, once more, before speeding up. This may not be the intention of the band, but the music is actually kind of peaceful and enjoyable to listen to.

As shown with the Pest project, Werwolf is very skilled at emulating those he admires. This shows very well, throughout Opferblut. Satanic Warmaster does not manage to sound as dark and evil as the bands that they hail, such as Darkthrone, Mayhem, Burzum and Gorgoroth. Despite that, it is easy to appreciate this album for what it is, especially considering the atmosphere of melancholy that hovers over this. While not being quite as raw as some bands, this doesn't sound slick or over-produced. Anyone with a bad taste in their mouth from Horna's Sudentaival need not worry.

This is recommended for those who don't mind obvious hero-worship in their music. Out of the countless bands that play this same style, Satanic Warmaster proved to be somewhat competent, on this album at least. This is, more or less, the only release of theirs that might be worth picking up. That said, it does not come nearly as close to capturing the dark feeling of the old Norwegian bands as fellow Finnish groups like Sargeist and Clandestine Blaze. This is a band whose popularity has been cultivated through image and marketing, making millions of pathetic internet kids think that this is the epitome of true Black Metal. If anything, this should serve as a gateway, imbuing you with the desire to seek out the true originators of this sound.

(Nov. 2006)