Friday, February 20, 2009

Paragon Belial - Nosferathu Sathanas (2008)

Nosferathu Sathanis is the second full-length album from Germany's Paragon Belial. For those unfortunate wretches not familiar with this band, it features two musicians that you should be acquainted with; Andreas Classen (original vocalist for Bethlehem) and Zahgurim (former Bethlehem drummer). The members of Paragon Belial kept themselves occupied with other musical projects since the release of their debut album, in 1996, Hordes of the Darklands. Many years passed since then, as the Black Metal scene changed and decayed. Yet, finally, this German horde rose from the shadows, after over a decade of silence, to unleash more raw and hateful Black Metal, the way it should be.

The album begins with the title track, which is dripping with the blood of the ancients. It opens with a mid-paced riff and grim vocals, before speeding up a bit. The vocals then become more demonic, sounding improved from the debut L.P. The old school influences are obvious here, and executed very well. Like any good opening song, this one serves well to set the tone for the whole record.

Next is "666 Calling of the Dead". This begins with intensity and pure hatred coming from Classen. The tempo alternates between violent speed and a more mid-paced assault, as the song continues. The vocals become more insane and possessed as things progress. There is a good mix of 80s and early 90s Black Metal, here, sounding as if it could, easily, have been released 15 years earlier. The most important thing is that the melodies are dark and memorable.

The next track is the longest one on the album. "Goatspawn" starts with a brief bass section, giving the feeling of dread, as the mid-paced riffs accompany hellish vocals. This one strongly retains the aura of doom from the previous album, while building upon it. There is a definite Hellhammer influence, yet it isn't as overt as some bands. Paragon Belial manages to take this inspiration and use it to create something of their own, rather than simply mimicking the old ones. After a few minutes, the pace picks up in a manner reminiscent of Hordes of the Darklands or Dark Metal. Things continue to build until it reaches a violent climax, where it all slows down. Only a somber acoustic guitar and sparse drums play as a sample from some unknown film adds to the evil and epic atmosphere. It all blends together, seamlessly, and slowly builds to an epic tremolo riff that will haunt you until your final days. This may be the masterpiece of the album, as the dark atmosphere is almost suffocating, as the funeral bells chime your final doom and it all comes to an end.

The tribute to Hellhammer is made clear with the next track. "Horus/Aggressor" is executed very precisely, as Andreas manages to emulate Tom Warrior's vocal style, while giving it a little more energy. This is superior to the original version, if for no other reason than that it doesn't feature the hypocritical and scum-filled presence of Mr. Fischer. Another thing worth mentioning is that with Paragon Belial's old school approach to Black Metal, this song fits in, perfectly, not seeming out of place at all.

"Abomoth" follows this, beginning with dark and dreary riffs, maintaining a slower pace than the last song. Andreas shows some variation in his vocals, as on the rest of the album, matching the feeling of the song and keeping things interesting. The drums are tight and keep a steady pace, even as the song speeds up. A lot of modern drummers feel the need to show off and do to much; Zahgurim knows just what is needed for the integrity of the song. Of course, Ralph is more than competent on the guitar, even throwing a brief solo into this song. Also, the bass is present yet not overbearing. Many bands place little or no emphasis on this instrument, missing out on the opportunity to accentuate the dark aura of the music.

"Solemnize Me" has a short build-up, accompanied with deeper vocals, before bursting forth with scorching speed. There is a brief section where it all slows down, as a funeral bell tolls once more, before returning to the same violent tempo. For the most part, this one retains the feeling from the Second Wave.

Traditional-sounding Metal riffs begin the next song, "Grimdozer". This one contains more memorable melodies, especially around the 2:00 mark. The song is fairly straight-forward, yet possesses small bits of variation, throughout. The pace really changes in the last minute or so, as the vocals become quite unrestrained and almost maniacal.

"Necromancer" is a re-recorded version of "Necromancer of the Dark Valleys", from Hordes of the Darklands. It begins with a melody that is somewhat reminiscent of something from Sacramentum's Far Away From the Sun. The cold riffs are enough to chill your skin even in the blistering heat of neverending summer. About mid-way through, the song seems to collapse into silence, with the drums slowly dying off. Nothing is left but the sound of falling rain, a miserable acoustic guitar and demonic vocals. The riff that follows is dark and takes you by the throat. The atmosphere is dark and you get the feeling of being pulled down into the fiery depths. This is certainly one of the best songs on here.

The album concludes with "Black Metal United & Strong". This one is rather short and has, somewhat, cleaner vocals as well as kind of a punk feeling to the chorus. It is more upbeat than the previous song, yet it's not out of place, either.

Nosferathu Sathanis is raw and misanthropic Black Metal. This is highly recommended for anyone that is tired of modern-sounding music. If you want more old school Black Metal, pick this up. You won't be disappointed.