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I'm mainly writing this review because of how shocked I am that its not more well known and appreciated. I consider Baptism to be one of the top 4 Finnish black metal bands and this one is by far my favorite.
The opening track "A Dream of War and Illumination" blasts forth with a huge dose of might. The vocal style on this song is unique and I appreciate the enunciation utilized for it. The varying tempos from a thunderous blast to a more midpaced one really helps to drive the melancholic harmonies. Though this song is musically very simplistic, the distinctly Finnish trademark guitar harmonies are an excellent example of why I love this style of black metal so much. The song is about looking inwardly to find your strength. In this case Kommander Lord Sargofagian ascribes his strength to his lord and master Satan, but also references multiple Gods which I find perplexing thematically. But anyway... The song ends with a simple repetitive droney sort of riff that works well.
I'm pretty fond of the overall recording and mixing on this record. I'd describe it as being on the bassier side of things keeping in mind that this is still a raw black metal album. I wish more albums offered this broad of a spectrum for all of the musical elements to exist within instead of normalizing all of the volumes to hell and hard panning everything to make it sound more extreme. It suits the style of the music quite well and doesn't allow anything to be all that distracting at any point.
Similar to Clandestine Blaze, Baptism does absolutely nothing to reinvent the wheel, and wields very few of the tenets of black metal to get the job done. Simple, dirgy dissonant black metal chords with sour and melancholic harmonies, not unlike Darkthrone's "Transilvanian Hunge" with the occasional slower doomier tempo / riff, or at times a more 80s thrash type of speed and riffing.
After two mid paced songs the albums slows down quite a bit with the 9 minute long song "In this Painful Life" which is a pretty personal song where he laments about the futility of life, the helplessness of humanity, you know generally melancholic themes. I think all too often we rabidly consume and collect these records with upside down crosses and skulls smattered all over them, failing to stop and see if there may be some intelligent art contained therein. I cant generally summarize what this song is about but I can appreciate the lyrics somewhat, despite not being the best use of the English language.
The last song on the album "Melancholy of a Journeying Soul" is my favorite track. Its a mid paced track driven mainly by a simple 4/4 rock drum beat but the kind that makes you want to pump your fist and scream along. I'm a sucker for this type of black metal.
Overall I can see how this record would be easily glossed over by black metal fanatics due to the insane number of albums of this ilk being created in Finland these days. Its staggering sometimes, but I urge you to give this album an even closer look. Play it from start to finish with a pair of headphones. It will prove to be an immersive and pleasing experience.
I have no idea how this album remains so unpopular. It's one of the best black metal albums ever for me. I've listened to hundreds and I'd at least put it in my top 20 or so. The vocals just totally make the album. Fucking intense hatred and misery all the way through.
Production is hazy. Roaming through the caverns and forest. Nice echo sound. There are background noises, "oohs" and "aahs," but they are quite subtle and do an amazing job of producing atmosphere. Trust me, any "true" black metal heads who hate shit like that, it's no problem here. You'll like it.
There are a few thrashy parts scattered throughout, but this is mostly suicidal, melancholic black metal. Again, the vocals are absolutely insane at some times. The album definitely drags around the point of "Flames." There ARE some boring moments, but they're outweighed by the others. The best tracks are "A Dream of War and Illumination," "Only Death," "Malicious Rites," "Melancholy of a Journeying Soul," and "In this Painful Life." The others simply do not compare to the intense sorrow and hatred these tracks emit.
I literally felt a cloud of intense fear and dread overcome me while listening to this one time. Took me a fucking week to come back to normal, not even kidding. A warning: If you are already depressed or suicidal, be careful with this fucker. If you get super into it, it can make you as miserable as itself. Very melodic, very romantic, even.
I really do think these guys are the real deal, and enjoy/worship pain and suffering. Some examples of this guy's intense vocals:
8:05 into "A Dream..."
4:20 into "Only Death." Jesus fuck, cannot help but feeling some sympathy for this fucker. That is one miserable growl.
3:49 into "Melancholy of a Journeying Soul." Don't know how he fucking does that, but it LITERALLY sounds like he's drowning in his own misery. God damn.
2:03 into "In This Painful Life." Enough said. Vocals are amazing and make the album.
The negative vibes parts of this album have are amazing. If you actually try to induce a state of hatred, fear, and misery upon yourself while listening to this, you will get chills and the music will feel like its overtaking you. Not kidding. It's beautiful but sinister at the same time. Someone buy this guy a beer for fucks sake, I can't take it anymore! Aaaahhhhh!!!