without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
I awoke the other day to find a copy of this CD in my mailbox, thanks to a friend that had graciously sent me it for free. Upon first sight, I realized that the artwork is incredibly minimal and I can tell that little effort went into it. However, I am, thankfully, not here to review the artwork! This is a good cause due to the fact that the shoddy artwork does not correspond to how good this album actually was. It is not a perfect album, not by far, but it is not a bad effort for a first full length, either.
The first thing that I noticed right off were the vocals. They are incredibly un-accessible and often sound like a weird moaning rather than an intended black metal vocal style. The lyrics and words are also in Russian, which in a way does not help them to be more soft-spoken. In retrospect, one would think that this would solidify the prominent "harsh" style of the music. I believe it is more hindrance than good in this particular release. The vocals, while maintaining their harsh style, are often sounding more forced, strained, and are a real hinder to enjoying this album from the beginning.
Thankfully, the rest of the material is very, if not completely solid. The Drowning The Light and Ulvegr style riffs, melodies, and tones work very well with this type of release. These particular roaring walls of guitar sounds are very good in giving the album visage and making it more memorable. In fact, the reason I came back to this album rather than having it gather dust on my shelf is because the melodies really impressed me. They're not exactly anything new, they are definitely very interesting and dark. At the mention of describing these melodies as "dark", I should mention that there are some downright depressive black metal parts occasionally planted within the songs. There are even a few songs that maintain a constant depressive vibe in the entire track. They are very reminiscent of acts such as Gris and Anti. Notable examples of this are "Анахорет" and "Куда Идёшь?.." Otherwise, the riffs are what you would expect from a decent black metal release. Walls of shadow-like guitar sounds giving you the impression of rainstorms.
Underneath the dark and majestic melodies lie unrelenting drum rhythms by Zlav, which most of the time differ from either triplet "bass-snare" rhythms, or faster and punishing blast beats. The drum production is VERY good, might I add. It seems to be recorded on a drum kit stereotyped for hard rock, but this works very well in this release. The drums are given less treble and more focused on bass, which is what I believe gives this album a real "soft" and pleasing-to-the-ears production.
Varhorn appear to have been around for quite a while, releasing two demos and the full length being addressed in this review. It seems that they have been very aware of their surroundings and have had a desire to craft their own take on a very versatile style of music. "Labyrinths of Darkness" is a solid release in black metal, and should be treated as such. I hope to see more releases from this band in the future, and hopefully maturing even more than they seem to have over the years.