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Sometime near the tail end of the second wave Scandinavian black metal scene, a wonderful album flew under the radar and vanished into obscurity before ever receiving its fair dues. That album was Bloodthorn's In the Shadow of Your Black Wings. Nearly two decades later, I think it's time to revisit this classic and give it the attention it deserves.
Bloodthorn, probably because of their late entry to the scene (1997), never officially made it into the canon of Norwegian black metal bands, although they should have. Their style (on this album) is a mid-paced, doomy, and plodding type of black metal. The overall production is up-front and dry, and in fact tonally quite reminiscent of Satyicon's Nemesis Divina.
This album is adorned with some of the most beautiful illustrations in 90s black metal. And really, this is one of those cases in which the art is perfectly matched to the music. This is the strain of black metal that conjures imagery of medieval fantasy, and boy does Bloodthorn do that well. Track two, “Breeding the Evil Inside” is an excellent example of what this album has to offer. It begins with a mid paced descending minor chord progressing, and tremolo riffing, swirling together above double bass. The song proceeds through different movements: galloping riffs, a short blast beat, a distant wailing of lone guitars – then it moves into a beautiful melancholic piano melody topped with female vocals. Eventually the guitars and the rest of the ensemble join in with the piano to make for a powerful closing segment.
The real beauty of this album is in the author's ability to craft deceptively simple, yet evolving songs which never offer too much to the listener at any given time. In the Shadow of Your Black Wings is highly recommended for people who are seeking that 90s black metal sound, and prefer an emphasis on melody and songwriting rather than brutality. If that sounds like you then don't hesitate to check out this album. In the Shadow of Your Black Wings is a shining example of all the best traits found in 90s Norwegian black metal.
This album seems to be overlooked by most now that Bloodthorn has become a faceless death/grind band. As a bit of history, “In the Shadow of Your Black Wings” was released by the French label Seasons of Mist, coming out not long before their infamous “WAR” split with Finland’s …and Oceans. They then hopped over to the American Red Stream label for the release of their third full-length, after which they disappeared from the underground music scene for a quite a while. Five years later, they re-emerged on Morningstar Records a completely different band.
For a band that changed their style more than I typically approve of, this release hit and destroyed the mark for Bloodthorn. The Black Metal influences were still quite present within the music, and this churned out a mix of thick, menacing metal, but with a ubiquitous, gloomy Doom-esque atmosphere (including the implementing of synths and exquisite female vocals), combining to create an infernally romantic bastard child. This album differs from the rest of the band’s discography by successfully utilizing the said atmosphere in order to prevent the music from stagnating, which I felt was the case with most of their other material. Krell’s vocals are excellent, and build to a wall of growls. This is paired with original and ever-changing riffs, maintaining a melody and mood typically not seen in the lifeless Black Metal archetype. The drumming keeps a pounding mid-pace throughout the album’s length, and this, paired up with the wall of utter heaviness that the vocals, guitar and synths create, makes for an epic experience teeming with Scandinavian undertones.
The one thing that I do not understand is why the band chose to place the final track ‘…with a Bloodstained Axe’ after several minutes of short, silent tracks as the 66th song. I find this to be completely useless.
To conclude, this album is an overlooked, but solid, classic, gem of a release from a group that used to be one of the best of the second wave Black Metal bands which poured out of Scandinavia after the death of [The True] Mayhem. Unfortunately the band’s death/grind influence became more and more evident with every succeeding release, and this eventuated in a change from an original sound to a faceless one that has been overkilled over the past couple of years.