Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vlad Tepes - Brouillons I (1995)

Among the better-known offerings from the LLN movement is the Vlad Tepes / Torgeist split L.P. The contributions from Wlad and Vorlok were originally released in a limited number as the Brouillons I demo, in 1995. This tape captures the raw essence of Vlad Tepes, one of the elite bands of the Black Legions, near their peak. This material may only be second to the songs on March to the Black Holocaust in quality and overall sound and should appeal to anyone into the sort of raw Black Metal that was coming from the French underground in those years.

Vlad Tepes starts the demo with a familiar melody. "Raven's Hike" seems to take "Wladimir's March" and expand upon it, quite a bit. The atmosphere is very epic and memorable, showcasing the band's old school roots. Once "Abyssic & Funeral Symphony - An Ode to Our Ruin" gets going, though, things really pick up. Vlad Tepes delivers the type of sound that bands like Torgeist only hinted at. Here, we get the fast tremolo melodies and the pummeling drums, though not just for the sake of creating a noisy or chaotic feeling. This is neither of those things. The riffs are, obviously, well-developed and mixed with a traditional approach that brings the songs to life much more than the underground posturing that most bands cling to, these days. It would appear that "In Holocaust to the Natural Darkness" was among the band's preferred tracks, as it was recorded a handful of times. This version is a little slower than the one found on March to the Black Holocaust, enabling the Bathory influence to come through a little more. All in all, the Vlad Tepes material is much more intelligible than that of many other LLN bands, which is no surprise as they were simply better songwriters. Each song possesses its own identity and really catches your attention. In particular, the somewhat epic and old school vibe of "Tepes - The Unweeping" is among the best songs that this band ever recorded. There is a dreary feeling that is rather subtle, but still manages to permeate you subconscious. This gloomy atmosphere deepens as the track continues, dragging you into the dark past. Unlike a lot of bands, Vlad Tepes was actually able to mix in older influences in a natural way, as opposed to a song clearly taking a left turn to include an "old school" section that did not truly fit. As for "Those Black Desires That Torment My Soul", this song was not on the split and I am not sure if it was fully meant to be a Vlad Tepes song or not. It first appeared on the 1994 demo of their other project, Black Murder. Either way, the feeling is dark and morbid in a way that eclipses everything else on here. From the eerie riffs to the tortured howls, this really possesses more of a melancholic atmosphere.

The production is surprisingly good for a Vlad Tepes demo, being clear enough for everything to come through well, yet still possessing a raw and underground approach. Unlike the Into Frosty Madness demo, for example, all of the elements are able to be deciphered, from the hateful vocals to the creative guitar riffs and the percussion. Unlike later versions of these songs, they are not dominated by the more trebly and thin sound. One has to wonder which was preferred, since this recording was chosen for the Black Legions Metal split, yet the band continued to record these tracks a couple more times, as if they were not satisfied with how they turned out. In my opinion, they did the best job the first time around, as this demo really captures the atmosphere of the songs very well and allows for all of the hard work and brilliant songwriting to be appreciated.

Vlad Tepes is another band, similar to Moonblood, that was too good for the limitations that they had to work under. Whether it was due to lack of interest on the part of the band members or of labels, the truth is that these guys should have been recording proper albums for several years at least and it is a crime that they did not. Thus, Brouillons I is even more essential for fans of Vlad Tepes. Of this there is no doubt. This is one of the better recordings to come from any of the LLN bands and certainly killed Torgeist's contributions to the split album that this ended up on. It certainly ranks near the top of their discography in terms of sound quality. This may fall a little short when compared to March to the Black Holocaust, but not by much. Seek this out if possible.