Sunday, December 23, 2012

Vlad Tepes - Celtic Poetry (1994)

Celtic Poetry is the second official demo from Vlad Tepes. For those unaware of this band, they were one of the best-known members of the French Black Legions, and for good reason. Along with Mütiilation, they created some of the best music to come out of this scene, and this 1994 demo is no exception. Regardless of the raw and under-produced sound, this is superior to a great majority of Black Metal albums being released for the past decade or more.

All of the songs on this tape were later recorded for the March to the Black Holocaust split album, with Belketre. As one might imagine, the versions featured here are a bit rougher, in every sense. Naturally, the production is more raw and distorted. The guitars possess somewhat more of a grating sound that on the later recordings, or even the next demo, for that matter. The bass adds to the maelstrom of hatred with an ominous rumble. The drumming is quite buried, but still audible. The vocals are lower than they would be on the following demo, for the most part. Overall, the presentation is very grim and obscure.

Musically, the type of arrangements and variation that Vlad Tepes are well known for are present here, though maybe somewhat more difficult to discern. "Drink the Blood of the Celtic Disciple" is a massive piece, stretching for thirteen minutes, taking the listener deep into the bowels of Hell. At times, there is almost a Viking-era Bathory vibe, or maybe something more akin to Isengard. Later in the song, there is a sombre section that features a cold open-arpeggio riff, before erupting into another freezing tremolo melody. Everything flows very well, and is coherent and well thought-out. There are no unnatural transitions, despite the length and ambitious approach taken with this track. One can still detect a Rock vibe, from time to time, on songs like "Under the Carpathian Yoke", in a style similar to the old Hellhammer demos. "Misery Fear and Storm Hunger" is a little too distorted, at times, for the riffs to really come through and have the intended impact, and it is a good thing that the song was re-recorded, as it is far too good to have been left like this. Either way, it features some of the most memorable riffs of the entire demo, and some of the darkest moments as well.

The Celtic Poetry demo is not exactly essential stuff, since all of these songs appear in a better form on March to the Black Holocaust. The overall quality is below that of War Funeral March, for comparison. This is more recommended for die-hard fans of Vlad Tepes, or just those curious to see how the band progressed from its earliest days. The songs were, more or less, complete and fully developed by this point. The only difference is that the better sound of the split L.P. allowed for them to be better appreciated. In all honesty, the execution was likely a little tighter, also. This is not a bad demo, at all, but not terribly worth the money to seek out in its original format.