Maniac Butcher is a somewhat obscure band from the Czech Republic. Their earliest demos consisted of fairly average Death Metal, having nothing to do with bands like Master's Hammer or Root. Eventually, it appears that they became inspired by the Norwegian Black Metal scene and changed their style. Their 1995 debut album, Barbarians, is a solid offering of uncompromising Black Metal and, despite the utterly ridiculous cover, it is well worth listening to.
Musically, one can hear a lot of Mayhem and Darkthrone influence in the riffs. Much of the material is based on the stripped down style of the early '90s, with fast and cold tremolo riffs over fast drums. The percussion is a little too active, far from the minimalism of Fenriz, though the playing is very tight and accurate. Still, this changes the feeling a little bit and is often one of the issues when a band has shifted to Black Metal from Death Metal. Though many of the songs are fast and intense, Maniac Butcher has no problem to slow things down on occasion and including kind of doom-oriented riffs that seem to hearken back to their demo days. There are some moments where they seem to channel Celtic Frost and even Master's Hammer, and prove to be quite skilled when it comes to including rather memorable solos. In fact, there are a couple used even during faster parts. Here and there, one is even reminded of early Emperor, minus the irritating keyboards. Instead, these guys relied on traditional instruments and strong songwriting in order to create the hellish and black atmosphere found on this album. The vocals are completely inhuman, sounding much more like a rabid animal. This helps to bring a sense of urgency to the music, especially with the frenetic drumming and fast-picked riffs. There is an epic quality to some of the melodies and you really get the feeling that nothing here is done just for the hell of it. Every idea has some meaning and manages to create a dark or menacing vibe. Some of the most memorable riffs are on "Druhé Stvoření", which are somewhat similar to Darkthrone's "Quintessence" (released that same year), though executed differently and including a rather haunting solo. In fact, this may be one of the best songs on here, showcasing the various elements of the band's sound.
The production is fairly decent. This obviously does not have a plastic, modern sound. Still, the drums are a little too clear and some parts are mixed a bit higher than they should be. It is not a severe problem, but it does take away from the riffs, slightly. As for the guitars, the tone is raw and cold and pretty standard for the time period. It could have benefited from being a little more harsh, but there is nothing really wrong with it as it is. The vocals are easily heard and don't seem to have much effects, such as reverb. The sound is very dry and strained.
Barbarians is a very solid album of Czech Black Metal. More than just another band that were quick to embrace and replicate the northern style, Maniac Butcher proves very capable of creating a strong, dark atmosphere. The only real complaint is that the album is so short, lasting just half an hour. Such would be tedious if the band was only churning out tenth-rate music, but this is too good to end so soon. If you haven't heard this band, it is recommended that you seek this out.