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Among the big names that brought a somewhat revamped, but largely conservative take on the Sabbath’s pioneering style of dark, depressive rock with murky, metallic guitar sounds is the underrated Swedish fold Count Raven. In contrast to the more auspicious and mystically inclined Candlemass, their brand is less involved in archaic remembrances of historical religion, but with the subject in its current day, socio-political applications. One could almost go as far as to say that this band is doom metal’s version of a protest band, and even go so far as to provide an 80s answer to the 60s psychedelic intrigues of Sabbath with an array of ambient keyboard passages that are, for lack of a better term, quite haunting. In fact, the only real way in which Candlemass and Count Raven are comparable is that each respective band is better known for their second vocalist than their first, and thus comes the question of the latter’s debut album.
As with any first album, “Storm Warning” is a couple years behind in terms of its sound, and is heavily reminiscent of a couple different eras of Black Sabbath, the biggest ones being mid 70s Ozzy era material and the brief stint with Ian Gillian on “Born Again”. The riff work has a strong affinity with the slowed down but more mid-tempo tendencies of “Master Of Reality”, but with a lighter feel more typical to that of “Sabotage”, and interpreted through the template of the 80s where bellbottoms stepped aside to make room for leather jackets and a more pessimistic view of the world. Perhaps one could even go so far as to make analogies to “Headless Cross” with some of the material on here, though more so the darker numbers like “When Death Calls”, and with a much heavier guitar tone and a more cynical lyrical approach that delves into the realm of the hypocrisy of politics and religion. And much like the Black Sabbath critiques of the olden days, the critiques put forth are far more nuanced rather than dismissive and iconoclastic for the mere sake of it.
With respect to the rest of Count Raven’s body of work, this album is fairly different from what followed in that the focus is not quite as particular both musically and lyrically. A good part of this could be chalked up to the presence of Christian Linderson, who is far different sounding than the Ozzy-like nasally bellows of Dan Fondelius. A comparison between them can be made on this very album as the latter takes lead vocal duties on “Sometimes A Great Nation”, which also happens to be musically closer to the consistently mid-paced rocking doom style heard on “Destruction Of The Void” and what came after. Linderson’s is a bit more traditional sounding, almost like a cleaner version of Scott Reagers and generally carrying a more consonant tune. It all fits in perfectly with this style, but it makes for a sound that is a little less menacing and almost crooning at times, rather than agitated and rebellious. Likewise, Linderson’s lyrics tend to be more ambiguous on the topic of Christianity, sounding more like an outsider criticizing the movement as a whole rather than an insider criticizing the conduct of those who might claim fellowship with him.
But putting aside the societal relevance to the themes contained on here, this is also a fine album that displays a band that is fairly versatile within their strictly defined style. After going through the motions of a creeping ambient intro carrying the band’s very own name, “Inam Naudemina” kicks in with a nasty, mid paced groove that is almost like a slowed down version of a thrash song with a bluesy tinge to the riff work. “True Revelation” and “Within The Garden Of Mirrors” really play up the Sabbath influences in the riff work, keeping things minimalistic and the introduction of new sections gradual. The vocal assault is emotionally charged, but for the most part clean and straightforward, letting the melodies speak for themselves. One aspect of this band that thankfully differs from Sabbath a little bit is that both Christian and Dan don’t make a regular habit of simply following the riffs with their vocal lines. Likewise, the guitar solo work on here, which makes up the lone area where this band exhibits virtuosic tendencies, is free of the blues box tendencies of older outfits and encompasses that 80s shred spirit in line with Candlemass’ sound.
In terms of this band’s relevance and who their audience is, their sound is very much orthodox and stylized, but in such a way that they stand alone among even fully Sabbath oriented doom and stoner bands. Perhaps the closest target group would be the Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus side of things, though the vocal style at work here is not nearly as operatic and tends closer to the model of Saint Vitus. Ultimately most fans of straight up heavy metal and doom metal should be receptive to this; particularly those who might wonder what Sabbath would have sounded like had Ozzy stayed in the band during the Ian Gillian and Tony Martin eras. But no matter what area of the metal spectrum is in question, this is definitely a band that needs some more love from as much of the scene as possible, and this album holds an equal footing with the ones that followed and are more regularly associated with this band’s core sound.
Count Raven is one of the most solid and interesting bands in the genre of doom metal. In my opinion, it is relatively easy to make a standard, mediocre 65/100 doom metal album. You tune your guitar lowest of the low, play slow, get the feeling right and there you go. But it is the hardest thing to do it good-stand out from the rest and break through to the top-just about what these guys did.
"Storm Warning" contains everything you would ever expect from a great doom metal album. It's slow (though not TOO slow, like this funeral doom shiznit), it's heavy and there is this awesome singer called Christian Linderson as an icing on the doomed cake. Fondelius is an outstanding composer, and some of his best work is included in "Storm Warning", that being "True Revelation", "In The Name Of Rock 'n' Roll" and "A Devastating Age". These three songs do stand out, but there are no fillers or mediocre tracks whatsoever, just three highlights in an all in all excellent piece of art.
The little difference of Count Raven when comparing to some other doom metal acts of the 90's, is their obvious rock 'n' roll attitude-it makes them pretty unique, bearing in mind that they are Swedish and not American (see also: The Obssessed). The music here is more Sabbath and less Candlemass, more Wino and less Dorrian-and there's nothing wrong with either of the two "sub-genres", it's just a slightly different feeling when you get to listen to the music. Count Raven is the kind of doom metal that a heavy rock fan would also like, being, let's say, less "desperate" and "mourning" than other bands of this decade.
We will never know what would have happened if Chritte had stayed with Count Raven and had never joined Saint Vitus but really nobody would blame him for doing it-Vitus is legend and we all accept that. And as a matter of fact, their next albums with Fodde behind the microphone are at least on level terms with "Storm Warning"-plus, we got also Terra Firma from Chritte. So, no hard feelings about anybody. Terrific album.
Count Raven, probably the most underrated traditional doom band in doom metal history. For a long time I have been looking to get my hands on some of their material, (seeing as I was in diapers during their lifespan.) Thankfully, I can now do so. Cyclone Empire did a good job with the albums reissue. I haven’t heard the original version though so I can’t tell you if the reissue is better than the original or not, but as a whole this album is a nice supersized portion of traditional doom metal.
Whatever possessed the band to record as many songs as they did for this I'll never know, but I can safely say that while the songs are long and very typical of most doom albums. The fact that so many are packed into one CD is simply overkill. The album can be divided into three sections (excluding the demo material): the intro (which has its own eerie level of spine tingling godliness to it), the next five tracks, then everything after (and including) the seventh track. The second section has a couple tracks which are simply filler, which are essentially the reason that this album is kept out of the high nineties on my rating scale.
Musically, the band takes elements from three specific bands, Candlemass, Saint Vitus, and, of course, Black Sabbath. This stirs them in a cauldron and then churns an album out of it. Christian Lindersson's vocals sound very similar to Ozzy; they have that same euphoric feel to them that makes any normal person drool over anything song he recorded under the Black Sabbath name, yet whenever he sings something it sounds clearer than Ozzy did. Dan Fondelius does vocals on track five and they sound slower, but not really that different from Christians (if it wasn’t listed somewhere I wouldn’t have known).
The guitars on here are slow. Sometimes the riffs have the epic feel to them that is very similar to Candlemass, at other times they present themselves very similar to the more traditional style of Saint Vitus and Black Sabbath. Every song on here dooms along in either of those formats, at times this does get a little repetitive but after awhile you get in a nice relaxed state and this doesn’t bother you as much.
Drum work on here is top notch. The parts are written with the drums used as a nice setting device for the songs speed. When the drumming is slow and almost non-existent the songs follow, when the patterns speed up so does the album, and whenever they are going full force the guitars follow suit and you are consumed by the flood of sound.
On the track “A Devastating Age” keyboards are added in. These help add a more overall heavenly feel and give a nice refreshing change to the doom marathon that proceeded. That same track also breaks out some acoustics which make this the perfect epic track, and would set up great for the ninth track, but instead we get a nice repeat of the good half and hour of traditional doom that preceded.
The ninth track is a similar change from the standard form the band follows. The use of a violin starts off and then you get a nice uplifting classical passage with the same experimental keyboard use that made this album stand out for me.
This album is a high quality slab of doom, with a lot of unique gems to wade through. The demo tracks on here sound very clean for most demo extras; however, there are still a couple of kinks in the mix (probably from how the master copies were recorded). The only drawback to this album is the couple of filler tracks that show themselves on here. If you want to call yourself a die-hard doomster this release is a mandatory purchase.