For those that have never been all that impressed with the output of Setherial, it might be recommended that you set aside twenty minutes or so and give a listen to their first demo. A Hail to the Faceless Angels is probably the best thing that these guys ever released. While such praise may only be in relation to the descending level of quality from this point on, these tracks do possess some merit of their own.
The sound is what one would expect from a demo of this time period. This quality of production really suits the music moreso than the somewhat cleaner sound of the following full-length, Nord. It is a little difficult to say for sure, as my tape is a bit worn, but it works for me. Stylistically, the songwriting is a little less complicated and could stem from the band having not yet fully acquainted themselves with Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse. That said, there are still regular tempo changes, with a seemingly equal amount of slower sections mixed in with the more fast-paced riffs. The music possesses more of the typical Swedish sense of melody, as demonstrated by tracks such as "The Reborn Darkness" and "As a Shadow", which are clearly influenced by Dissection. The latter does include a more Death Metal-oriented passage that does not fit in with the rest, however. The vocals really seem to shine on "The Ancient Sphere", during the slower parts, one can detect a sense of sincerity in the delivery. There are still bits of synth in use, but it is kept to a minimum and never really detracts from the rest of the instruments. There are times when the drumming is a little overactive, but the nature of the recording means that they are sufficiently buried in the background.
A Hail to the Faceless Angels is an average offering of mid-90s Black Metal. It should certainly appeal to fans of Dissection (which the band members certainly were). Setherial were absolutely not alone in creating a musical project more to emulate those which they appreciated, in an attempt to simply make music in that vein. They were never really the best, but this demo is worth giving a shot.