Sunday, February 8, 2009

Carpathian Forest - Through Chasm, Caves and Titan Woods (1995)

Carpathian Forest first emerged with the demo tape Bloodlust and Perversion, in 1992. They received sudden enthusiastic responses from the underground. Their obsessive, morbid and grim sound has always been a firm trademark. In 1993 the band released a second demo Journey Through the Cold Moors of Svarttjern, showing also a new approach to atmospheric, but still glacial sounds. These tapes quickly became coveted items in underground tape trader networks. One year later, they signed to Avantgarde Music and recorded their first mini album.

Through Chasm, Caves and Titan Woods was released in 1995. The title of the E.P. was taken from a line of the Edgar Allan Poe poem, "Dreamland". My first experience with this band was around the time Morbid Fascination of Death came out. This album contained some decent songs, but it was nothing very special so I paid very little attention to this band. It was only some years later, when my girlfriend turned me on to the earlier material from this band, that I came to appreciate them in any way. From what I have heard, this is probably the pinnacle of this band's creative output.

The E.P. begins with the song "Carpathian Forest". From the opening moments, this possesses a strong Hellhammer influence. The difference here is that the vocals are far more sinister and suitable for the music. There is also a wicked lead solo that is reminiscent of old Bathory. There is some minimal keyboard use, as well, which is used to add to the dark and horrific atmosphere.

"The Pale Mist Hovers Towards the Nightly Shores" is next, and the old school feeling still dominates the sound, sounding much more like 1985 rather than 1995. This does not seem to have very much in common with the other Norwegian bands of this time period, other than the spirit of Darkthrone's Panzerfaust. The solo work is excellent and Nattefrost's vocals are about as morbid and grim as it gets.

This is followed by "The Eclipse / The Raven", which is a very atmospheric song that captures the sorrowful and dark feeling of Poe's most well-known poem. The vocals sounds as if coming from the distant shadows, possessing a ghostly quality. The band displays, even at this early stage, an ability to create eerie soundscapes.

"When Thousand Moons Have Circled" returns to the ugly, Hellhammer-influenced Black Metal. Carpathian Forest always seems to sound a little similar to old Mayhem, possibly giving an idea of how they would have sounded if they had continued with the style established on Deathcrush. Again, there is very minimal use of keyboards, accentuating the atmosphere.

This E.P. concludes with the epic "Journey Through the Cold Moors of Svarttjern". The pace is much slower than the rest and Nattefrost's vocals are utter shrieks of torture and abysmal suffering. The organ use adds greatly to the morbid and depressive atmosphere created here. This feels like a mournful funeral march. As the song progresses, the misery courses through your veins. A lifetime of sorrow returns to you, all at once, overwhelming your senses. With each tormented scream, with each somber melody, the poisonous despair leaves you weakened and ready for the end.

"Frozen is my pagan heart,
And once again the dawn is here
Hear the sound of silence,
In these trees....
Are my gallows...."