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In the liner notes of the digipack release of "Through Chasm, Cave And Titan Woods" it says "Black Symphonic Laments & Hymns", pretty self explanatory for this EP and as I write this, there really is no better way to fully describe the songs here except emotive. The emotions evoked therein bring a wave of feeling distraught and claustrophobic as if Nattefrost were an ancient vampire alone in solitude in some castle located in a far off vast ice covered land, as what I imagined as depicted on the cover. Come to find out this is not the case at all as we have learned, as the man lives alone in a flat in Sandnes, masturbates more than usual, drinks like a fish, makes Jack Nicholson look like he never touched a drug in his life, and enjoys having his picture taken while he's naked in a bathtub with a bottle of his favorite poison. Alas, though, many a great artist did not play with a full deck and Carpathian Forest's early years were a funeral shroud over thine eyes. Before "Black Shining Leather", "Strange Old Brew", and "Defending The Throne Of Evil", there was "Through Chasm, Cave And Titan Woods".
The production of "Through Chasm, Cave And Titan Woods" is very lifeless and cold, freezing the listener in a casket of ice. The atmosphere present on this recording is pure sorrow evoked through Nattefrost's unique and ultra uncomfortable vocals, probably one of the most recognizable voices in black metal. Nordavind's musicianship is never sub par, always on top of his game, his skill as a guitarist effective and presence sinister. He and Nattefrost share duties on guitar, keyboards and synthesizers, with Nordavind handling the acoustic parts. John M. Harr handles bass and fretless bass, which has a decent solo on "The Eclipse / The Raven" and Svein H. Kleppe of Artifact and prog band Sea Of Dreams is the session drummer here.
Lyrically, "Through Chasm, Cave And Titan Woods" is spectacularly descriptive in its songs of depressive sorrow. "The Eclipse / The Raven" is Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" performed by Carpathian Forest, the darkest lament on here and also the most interesting. Being as how the album was produced, everything is very low in some spots so you may have to turn up the volume on a few songs on here to hear them better. "The Pale Mist Hovers Towards The Nightly Shores" along with "Carpathian Forest" are the two most memorable songs on here. This is the original "Carpathian Forest" song and not the one redone for "Morbid Fascination Of Death" album which has the same lyrics but this one is slower compared to the upbeat faster tempo of the remake.
"When Thousand Moon Have Circled" is another great song and was actually covered by Finland's Horna. As these were in no particular order, we end up with the last song on here, "Journey Through The Cold Moors Of Svarttjern" which is coincidentally the longest track on "Through Chasm, Cave And Titan Woods" and follows the same pattern of the poetic style which is heard on "The Eclipse / The Raven". Musically, each song is individually performed with no two sounding the same and as the liner notes state, symphonic in nature. With the word "symphonic" being thrown around nowadays with the automatic assumption that if a band is symphonic, it must mean the same as the grandiose orchestration of Emperor and Bal-Sagoth, then the word has lost it's meaning entirely. The "s" word is used loosely here when describing the music with more emphasis on strings than brass and horns, with the synth used very mildly.
Carpathian Forest's early work compared to their more recent stuff is like day and night. "Black Shining Leather" contained a few songs that reminisced of the music performed here, but that was the end of that. When "Strange Old Brew" was released they mixed in more of a punk feel to the black metal where "Morbid Fascination Of Death" was a mix between "Strange Old Brew" and "Defending The Throne Of Evil" which is by far their best work to date and most diverse containing more use of the synthesizer, keyboards, and wrung down to a truly disturbing black metal album. With the release of "Fuck You All!!!!!", Natte and co. abandoned everything they had achieved so far to produce an album which ultimately divided their fan base and incorporated a total "fuck you" attitude to anyone who said they had become sell outs. If you're like me and enjoy starting out at the beginning of a band's discography and work your way up, and enjoy hearing a band in its infancy, then "Through Chasm, Cave And Titan Woods" is for you.
When listening to this EP, then one gets the impression that there is something wrong with it. Why do the third and the fifth track sound so different? Why are there basically two different kinds of Carpathian Forest (CF) on this release? Is there something to cover this fact? Indeed, such an explanation exists: this release contains basically two different kinds of recordings.
Tracks 1, 2 & 4 recorded in the last days of March 1994.
Tracks 3 & 5 recorded in April 1993.
Seems like the band recorded some creepy and dark stuff in one session, while using the other later one to record the stuff this band would later become famous for and which would be in style close to a side-project Nattefrost and Nordavind would be involved in: Grimm from Norway; the recording session for their Nordisk Vinter release took place in September 1993; between those used for this CF release.
Accordingly it is necessary to differentiate when it comes to discuss the music on Through Chasm, Caves And Titan Woods:
Tracks 3 & 5:
These two are both written by Nordavind and they foreshadow a bit the way he will write songs for Carpathian Forest; like those on Strange Old Brew for instance. A kind of music that tends to be slower, darker and with a slightly depressive atmosphere. The Eclipse / The Raven is a very minimalist song, with only a small set of instruments of which the keyboards and guitars are necessary to mention. These lay the basis for the song, playing chords in a slow fashion, while the vocals croak parts of the poem The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. Pure darkness, no relief, depressing.
Journey Through the Cold Moors of Svarttjern offers, in contrast to the third one, metal guitars and some sort very minimalist song-structure, which is varied hardly over the whole length of the track. Some weird vocals, the guitars create a dense and icy wall in the background and keyboard play the same but in less dark fashion... Yes, somehow are these vocals ridiculous and amusing, but CF did nevertheless a good job on this track and create a dark and haunting atmosphere.
Tracks 1, 2 & 4:
Well, these compositions are in a fashion one would await from this band and which have helped the band to get attention and a good amount of fans. Fast and dirty black metal, not too complex song structures, some solo parts, Hellhammer influences of course and the cool way Nattefrost tends to croak the vocals. The tracks on the Grimm release - Nordisk Vinter - and those on this EP are quite similar in their approach and offer some 'fist in the face' black metal. Direct, pure and very catchy.
Final bits and bytes
When comparing this EP by Carpathian Forest with the currently by legions of black metal bands released stuff, then one cannot praise this short piece of music enough. Two different facets of this band are presented here and even though they sound quite odd together, the quality cannot be questioned. Personally, those tracks by Nordavind (2,3,5), despite the issue with the lyrics, are those I prefer on this release, as these sound more coherent and are darker; yes, the latter aspect is a lame argument as Nattefrost did not contribute on this release any of these 'slower' songs. Anyway, Through Chasm, Caves And Titan Woods is certainly a release fans of Carpathian Forest must listen to, because together with the release by Grimm, it offers a good impression where the band started and what elements of their oeuvre had been in place already back then. Certainly not perfect, but really good.
Contrary to what Mr. Roger Nattefrost might want you to believe, CARPATHIAN FOREST have not always been a bunch of cross-dressing pottymouths. "Through Chasm, Caves And Titan Woods" was originally recorded in two sessions, respectably in 1993 and 1994, when the band was still a duo consisting of Nattefrost and Nordavind with two session musicians. The EP marks an important transition in the bands sound from their first demo "Bloodlust And Perversion", and is thus to be considered a notable piece of their, if not all of Black Metal's history.
Two of the five tracks on Through Chasm were recorded in April 1993, “The Eclipse/The Raven” and “Journey Through The Cold Moors Of Svarttjern”. Both of these songs feature acoustic guitar plucking, eerie synths, and a heavy atmosphere of Transilvanian ghostliness. “The Eclipse/The Raven” features lyrics adapted from Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem, which when paired with a twisted organ results in a very spooky piece. “Journeys...” sounds like the perfect soundtrack to an old vampire movie, with evil-sounding acoustic strumming and steadily pounding drums backed by Nattefrost's then distant-sounding half-choked screams. All in all these two tracks are the best on the album, as they deliver a unique Norwegian Black Metal experience shrouded in very dark atmosphere.
As for the remaining three tracks, it becomes more apparent where CARPATHIAN FOREST were headed with their music in the future. The self-titled opening track still holds some of the desolate coldness of their earliest works, but already at this stage they have taken on more of a punk-rock influence, apparent in the fast guitar riffs and several short solos that have now replaced the mellow acoustic parts. The lyrics were written in 1991 and 1992, and thus for the most part deals with northern landscapes and deadly visions, with the notable exception of the last verse of “The Pale Mist Hovers Towards The Nightly Shores”, which includes the questionable line “Acknowledge the supreme Northern racial purity that runs in the blood of my veins”. Seems that the art of provocation wasn't lost on Nattefrost back then either, but it's important to note that this was before Darkthrone's “Aryan Black Metal” controversy led to heavy backlash.
In retrospect, "Through Chasm, Caves And Titan Woods" is an essential release to anyone interested in the history of Norwegian Black Metal or wanting to know what CARPATHIAN FOREST could have ended up sounding like if they hadn't pursued their signature punkish sound. This re-release should be a good opportunity to complete your collection, but I'm somewhat disappointed by the lack of bonus material, as the entire EP clocks in at a mere 19 minutes. Never the less, if you aren't already familiar with the band's early material you should definitely snatch a copy of this release and play it while watching the original Nosferatu or something equally eerie.
(Online March 5, 2008)
Written for the Metal Observer
As far as I'm concerned Carpathian Forest has offered us a limited supply of truly noteworthy releases, and this is by far the most noteworthy. Where Black Shining Leather was as polished as the title would imply (as far as your standard black metal release goes), Through Chasm... is a truly lo-fi offering. Not as lo-fi as, say, Moonblood, but fairly fuzzy. This, however, in no way depletes the magic of this release. First off, Carpathian Forest begins with a heavily punk-like riff, and then comes Nattefrost, to rack your brain with his angry frog vocals. I am a huge fan of the reverb layered into the vocals on this album, however I feel like the guitar could have a little more prominence in the mix.
The Pale Mist Hovers Towards the Nightly Shores is a truly brutal black metal song, keeping pace with what's expected from this album. Great riffs, a nice and diverse song structure, and a nice performance, vocal-wise.
Then comes The Eclipse / The Raven. This particular song is what compels me to label this a "more than just black metal release." If heard as a stand-alone offering, this track would inspire those unfamiliar with the nuances of ambience that are so prominent in alot of black metal to say "What the hell is this?" That's because it is an eerie work, with virtually no elements of your standard headbanging, church-burning madness.
When Thousand Moons Have Circled is a journey back into black thrash, with an almost mosh like tempo from the beginning. Not much really stands out to me in this song, other than the haunting bits of keyboard work in the background.
Journey Through The Cold Moors Of Svarttjern is another amazing 'more than just black metal' moment in this album. Great vocals, great distortion behind a very effective acoustic guitar. The howling vocals are hauntingly compelling, and this song is the great way to end a nearly flawless offering.
I say nearly flawless because of the mixing, which is only slightly flawed, and because in the time it took me to write this review, I am almost finished listening to the record in question. Not necessarily bad, I just feel that they should have pumped out as much of this atmosphere as possible while they were still in that mindframe.
This is Carpathian Forest at their best, before Nordavind left the band. Since this EP was released, they haven’t created anything better. The chemistry that Nattefrost and Nordavind had during this time helped dramatically in the writing process. To put it shortly, Carpathian Forest will always be less with Nordavind gone, and listening to this EP definitely backs that up.
The riffs here are a more blackened version of Celtic Frost/Hellhammer. Even though there are only three real guitar/bass/drums/vocals songs, they are all extremely good. Carpathian Forest at this time were a band that not only took influence from the legendary Hellhammer, but also made them better. There are ambient tracks mixed in to give some atmosphere to the grim sound of the guitars during transitions. The drums are also grimly produced, with the snare being louder then any other drum. The crash cymbal is ever present here as well. One thing that is great about this album is the drumming. They always seem like they fit perfectly.
“When Thousand Moon Have Circled” is by far the best track, with “The Pale Mist Hovers Towards the Nightly Shores” right behind it. Both filled with amazing riffs and great drum work to back them up. Nattefrost, vocally, was at his peak here as well. A little reverb added to them, making them sound very grim. Basically, this whole album is a more grim version of Hellhammer, which worked excellent for CF. The album ends with a very eerie acoustic song with screeching vocals that are louder then any vocals you’ll hear on a Black Metal album recorded in the early to mid 90s.
The only disappointment would be that this album doesn’t even span 20 minutes. It is very short. A few more tracks would of made this album receive a 100 percent. I would highly suggest getting this if you’re a fan of Carpathian Forest or old school Black Metal.
I own this EP as "bonus tracks" included with the re-release of Carpathian Forest's Black Shining Leather album. I still haven't managed to sit through that album in its entirety - it just doesn't hold my interest at all - but I found this brief opus, from earlier in the band's career, to be a nice little piece of work.
It's just humble Hellhammer worship for the most part, but they do it well, updating it with interesting touches like eerie, Bathory-like guitar leads and a few touches of synthesizer. The third song, which has lyrics from Poe's "The Raven", actually excludes distorted guitar entirely, instead using clean guitars and keyboards and even a fretless bass solo, and while the execution is a tad shmaltzy it was certainly a noble attempt. The closer changes the pace again to a slow black metal funeral march, ending things on a rather dramatic note.
Simple to enjoy as well as unusual. Thumbs up from me.
Put out in 1995 on Avantgarde Music (mine being the CD release), this ones got a decade of influence in it, and is still a solid 2nd wave Black Metal outing. Its hard to gauge how influential a record like this is/was, but with out a doubt this is classic early 90's Norwegian Black Metal with clear old school roots, artistic embellishments, but with good style, and intelligence, and what I'd simply dub, "true". Now even though Carpathian Forest have since undergone many changes in style, and have changed their images completely, this album is a major release, and solidified a general view of them as a great band (no matter how much I might hate general views, this one seems to be in step with my thoughts).
The riffs are generally very catchy, old school, dirty, European Thrash (Hellhammer-ish)... not to overly complex they keep it simplistic, but with great hooks, and leads retaining a powerfull melodic aspect which gives each song a great feel. The rythms keep a solid base with the guitars, and drums, as the rythm guitars hold a deeper tone, and a dirty distortion which makes them an ample ground (so to say) for building your song upon. The leads, and solos fit over these perfectly, really good production job here, and push the melodics in the harmonies to the forefront. The acoustic guitar work is well done also, produced perfectly as is all of what you'll find here, and creates a very uneasy ambiance of dark meloncholia,...not to mention the usage of vocals, and synth layers definitely give the solid sound needed to come off as very professional, and extremely well done. The vocals vary a bit, but mostly keep to Nattefrost's unique delivery, and tone. The vocal patterns themselves are very well done also, much more so than alot of the contemporaries from this exact time, and add much to the catchy-ness of any given song. The druming is performed very masterly, having a unique timbre, and production sound, but really just fits the music so well. Tight, pummeling, and energetic are some adjectives which come to mind.
Overall the music varies between softer, less agressive ambiant structured tunes, to the much heavier, old school, Thrash based material which in both the band creates well done atmospheres of Black Hymns to evil, and a post-lamentation, symphonic catharsis.
With said, I highly advise picking this up if your into things as such. You shouldnt be disappointed!