Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pest - Hail the Black Imperial Hornsign (1998)

Hail the Black Imperial Hornsign is the second demo from the Finnish Black Metal band known as Pest. This was a side-project from members of Horna, seemingly possessed by the need to pay tribute to the early Bathory releases. This cassette was released on Demonion Productions in 1998, though one could easily mistake this for having risen from the black abyss well over a decade earlier. The overall sound and style is in the same vein as The Return..., with a bit of Under the Sign of the Black Mark tosses in for good measure.

I first heard this band on a friend's radio show, late one night. The song "Satanic Winter" was mixed in with a lot of 80s Black and Thrash Metal and fit in so well that I did not bother to question its origins. I simply assumed that it was some hidden gem that I had missed out on, but was fortunate enough to eventually discover anyway. Upon learning that it was only a couple years old, I was pleasantly surprised to know that there existed bands that still had the desire to keep the old sound alive.

This demo is dripping with old school spirit, mostly a morbid obsession with old Bathory. There is nothing here that would have seemed out of place on Quorthon's second or third releases. The music is mostly mid-paced, even the thrashier parts are never all that fast. Only "Riding Under the Sign of the Horns" picks up the pace and gives a nod to the Second Wave. There is a bit of synth mixed in, but only to add an eerie effect, rather than turning this into some symphonic trash. The atmosphere is dark and ugly, yet not completely oppressive. The main riffs of "Satanic Winter" and "Towards the Bestial Armageddon" are energetic enough that you are more likely to spend the night headbanging than sacrificing virgins under the full moon. However, there are some sections that are a bit more pitch-black than the rest.

The production is pretty good for the material, with the riffs coming through very clearly and yet still retaining enough of an ugly tone to suit the material. The rumbling of the bass is audible, adding another dimension of apocalyptic gloom to the proceedings. The mix is really appropriate, with everything being at the right level. Drums are clear as well, but not so much that they smother the rest. The vocals are also features in the proper way, not drowning out the music as some bands like to do. This is very much driven by the guitar riffs and, as such, the guitar is the most dominant element here. For a mere cassette demo, the sound here is remarkable and it has all the quality of a mid-80s studio album.

Despite the presence of Nazgul, Hail the Black Imperial Hornsign is a high-quality release and one that is sure to appeal to fans of old school Black / Thrash. The Bathory influence is undeniable and you may find yourself rocking out to "Born For Burning" by the time this is over, just because this really puts you in the mood to revisit the classics. This is the strongest release from Pest, and the most consistent. Nonetheless, the primary way anyone will obtain this now is to pick up the 2003 compilation CD, Hail the Black Metal Wolves of Belial, which features this demo as well as the following mini-albums. Seek this out and listen at full volume.