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Tales From the Darkened Woods - 75%

Memnarch, November 22nd, 2009

Well this is a strange one. Antim Grahan come from Nepal. Not exactly the metal mecca of the world. Now I will admit, I have no idea about the Nepali underground metal scene, nor did I even ever expect to hear anything from it, but I would be surprised if these guys weren’t on the verge of something big, especially being the first metal band from the country to aquire a record deal, with the underground KTMROCKS Records based, surprisingly, in Kathmandu. I found out about this album through a friend who happened to be in the country, and upon asking them to bring me back “some obscure Nepalese death metal”, they brought me back this. This isn’t death metal, but rather black metal in the vein of acts such as Cradle of Filth, Graveworm, Agathodaimon and the ilk. Don’t let that put you off though, as there is no band I currently despise more than latter day CoF, but this is heavily akin to their early work, which is rather good.

The album starts off with a rather pointless intro awash with synth and plinky plonky keys, something which I just find rather pointless, and irks me a lot. Intro tracks are very rarely ever worthwhile, just instead serving to fill up a bit of time on the disk. Upon hearing the first track, ‘Cradle of Filth’ comparisons are inevitable, and it’s not hard to see why, but thankfully, the vocals here are a lot better than those of Dani’s caterwauling; lacerating and vicious. Riffwise, its fantastic, full of turbulent riffs sweeping throughout each song and some nice lead work as well. The drumming is very competent, and thank god they didn’t use a drum machine, as many do, as it would totally ruin the atmosphere. It just doesn’t suit this type of music.

The main thing that sets it apart from the menagerie of other symphonic black metal bands is the balance between the synth and guitar. The synth here is kept in its place, it isn’t swamping the guitar and drowning it out. Symphonic Black metal which is saturated with synth just sounds too saccharine to these ears and is an instant no-no. The songs never repeat themselves, each song is fairly dynamic, changing at just the right time preventing repetitiveness, and each song on the album varies a large amount from the others. The production could be a bit beefier though, the guitar is slightly tinny, and there is a distinct lack of bass, but it’s not a massive problem. This is a genre of Black Metal which I am not a great fan of, so from me this is a high accolade, because I prefer this to any of Cradle of Filths latest output. It’s not re-inventing the wheel, but it is a solid slab of symphonic black metal which should please all melodic black metal fans out there. Oh and one last thing, lose the female vocals, they are horrendous. I look forward to hearing more from this band.