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Whenever I see a one-man black metal project from the ol’ Estados Unidos, I’m automatically skeptical of its quality. There are just way too many Xasthurs out there fucking things up for everyone. When I stumbled across A Transylvanian Funeral, my gut feeling was no different. I have no idea why I even gave this “Sleepwalker” dude a chance in my speakers, but I’m sure glad I did. A Transylvanian Funeral is nothing short of excellent modern black metal with some blazing speed, songwriting expertise, undeniable groove, and a good atmosphere to boot.
First of all, Sleepwalker is the band and owner of his label and has his studio, so understandably, this is no raw, “press record on the broken Tascam four-track cassette recorder” type of production we’re dealing with here. Every instrument is razor-sharp and ice cold, and it sounds absolutely fantastic for a black metal album. Nothing about it sounds warm or organic, and that only enhances the overall viciousness of the music.
The guitars have a fuzzy, piercing tone with very little bottom end, but it makes the tremolo-picked riffing really stand out. Many of those types of riffs are a lot more melodious than I’m accustomed to from many black metal bands of the Scandinavian school. If I had to draw comparisons to his riff-writing, I’d say he actually reminds me a lot of Lord Ahriman of Dark Funeral because of the way he uses catchy melodies with such amazing speed.
Sleepwalkers drumming is fast. Like Frost fast. Absu fast. Matte Modin fast. Granted, he’s not quite on par with those guys, of course. On some occasions he even veers dangerously close to sounding as if he’s about to fall apart, but the sheer speed he exhibits is quite impressive. As far as fills are concerned, he keeps it pretty simple, presumably because trying to do something overly flashy at those speeds would probably cause some type of ligament injury.
The atmosphere is also something you notice, especially if you listen to most of the album in a single sitting. Unlike some black metal bands out there who set the atmosphere with a spooky intro track and perhaps add an ambient outro, this album ebbs and flows because of cleverly placed interludes that break up the breakneck pace of the album’s real burners. The most noticeable moment is “Creation of My Phylactery,” which is possibly one of the weirdest song titles in recent memory. It’s perfectly placed in the middle of the album and immediately following the first half’s onslaught of speed. Other tracks have movements within them that enhance the atmosphere as well, and it the whole package works to set the mood for the whole album’s duration.
If you’re immediately turned off by the description of “one-man American black metal project,” don’t be. At least not this time. A Transylvanian Funeral is a pleasant surprise and a real delight for anyone who likes decently well-produced black metal at hyper-speed. Nothing about this album is overly brooding, melodramatic, or annoying in any way, which can be the case for many newer black metal releases, especially the ones on this side of the pond. It’s just really good, catchy, groovy black metal. Check it out.
Written for globaldomination.se
Forbidden Records recently provided me access to a couple of promo records via their Bandcamp page. One of those I passed up because of my own personal reasons, but I dug into The Outsider by A Transylvanian Funeral. As it turns out, it's the one-man black metal band of label owner Sleepwalker.
The project is based out of Tucson, Arizona, proving once and for all that Arizona is more than just a haven for deathcore. The desert has quite a bit in common with the frozen North, both forbidding wastelands that harbor dangerous wildlife in deceptive abundance.
The record references all the usual suspects, and sounds exactly how you might expect a one-man Norwegian black metal album from 1995 to sound. It starts off with an intro, replete with rain and thunder sounds. It moves into blasting aggression, pulls back to explore some atmosphere, and then blasts again at the end. Stops along the way include some piano with ominous drumming ("A Ghoul Rising from the Grave"), some really cool riffs ("Winter's Worm"), and evil whispers ("Dismembered by Spirits").
All the standard elements are there, right down to the lo-fi production that makes the drums sound flat, although the bass does pop through nicely at times. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," the saying goes. But if I want cold black metal, I'll usually look to colder environs. Why not give a take on the genre that's inspired by arid desolation?
The Verdict: It's not original by any stretch, but the quality is good enough to keep you with it for the full 66 minutes.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/