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“Burning Scriptures” stands as the 12th full length release by the Dutch madman known as Orlok and his one man band Countess. Countess is one of those bands where you basically know what you’re going to get: epic cuts of traditional black metal infused with strong doses of heavy metal and thrash—and it's done right.
The music is epic, attacking, and catchy. The lead guitar is intrepid, like an ancient call to arms, but at the same time playful and almost childlike. The bass (Orlok’s original instrument) is solid, bouncy and fully audible. Then, of course, there are Orlok’s vocals—sharp, high pitched and cracking—like a crow maniacally cawing. You either love them or hate them. Personally I think they are awesome. The one major addition to “Burning Scriptures” is the welcome return of the synth, which had been absent from the past few albums. The synth adds some body to the music and gives it a theatric dimension, which works well with the descriptive, image laden lyrics.
While Orlok doesn’t write much bad material, he isn’t the most dynamic songwriter in the world. There are the fast, aggressive, thrash inspired tracks and there are the slower, epic, heavy metal inspired tracks. That’s about it. Thus, the album, which is 72 minutes long, drags. This is a bad habit of Orlok’s—his albums tend to wear out their welcome. The album does contain a Manowar cover, and two rerecordings of older tracks. The Manowar cover is pretty cool, but the rerecordings are unnecessary. If these tracks were left out, the album would be a lot more palatable.
The other problem with “Burning Scriptures” is that it simply lacks innovation. Yes, the reintroduction of the synths is a nice touch, but otherwise this album doesn’t explore new territory. Orlok demonstrated that he is capable of highly original (and strange) recordings with “Book of the Heretic” and “The Shining Swords of Hate”, easily his best two works. So why is Countess becoming so redundant?
Nonetheless, even if Orlok opts for the beaten path, there are plenty of kick ass tracks that make this album worthwhile. For the faster, more biting tracks, “Poets Perry” stands out with its scorching, hateful verse and its headbanging chorus. The best of the slower tracks is “A Curse upon the King”, an anti-Christian anthem whose chorus will be stuck in your head all day.
If you enjoyed Countess’s last few releases, then you will like “Burning Scriptures”. While Countess has become stuck in somewhat of a rut with regards to style, it’s certainly a style Orlok does well. When it’s all said and done, this is another fun, entertaining, though somewhat exorbitant release from Countess.
(Originally written for http://listenwell-nocturnal.blogspot.com)
This is the twelfth album from Countess, a Dutch one-man band band playing orthodox black/heavy metal.
Burning Scripture has by far the best production of any Countess album to date. The guitars are right up front in the mix, yet still retain that signature Countess sound, and the bass on this record is even more audible than before. The drums are programmed, yet surprisingly natural -- as always, this is one of the few metal bands that can manage this without wrecking everything. Best of all, keeping the vocals in the back of the mix has allowed Orlok to come much closer to his classic, pre-Shining-Swords vocal style. The keyboards also hark back to olden days; the mix of subtle background keys with much more obvious synth lines brings Book of the Heretic to mind.
To my ears, this record is as much a leap forward as Spawn of Steel was. While the last few albums have been more than solid, this one surpasses them easily, with nine memorable songs written in a smooth synthesis of Countess' epic and aggressive styles. Orlok's guitar playing is much improved, too, lending the solos a flexibility that hasn't been heard since Zagan left the band. Lastly, the anti-monotheist theme unifies this record perfectly, making it much more cohesive than anything since Heilig Vuur. Songs like "Chariots of Thunder" and "Burning Scripture" combine fast, aggressive riffing with shout-along choruses and cutting solos. "Mad Pharaoh" and "A Curse Upon the King" are more atmospheric pieces which bring to mind early Manowar and mid-period Bathory. The vocals on the latter are especially excellent, full of heathen vitriol! "Blood of Our Gods" takes the same theme to its extreme, delivering nearly ten minutes of stately keys and massive riffs. The shifting key/riff pattern on this track is exceptional throughout... and when Orlok finally changes it up, it becomes shiver-inducing!
Countess also present two re-recorded bonus songs: "Hymn to the Gods of Yore" (originally from Revenge of the Horned One, Part 1) and "Schemering der Goden" (from Heilig Vuur). Both are tremendously improved by the production here, and are a perfect fit for the album's theme. I was especially pleased to hear "Hymn to the Gods of Yore" again -- that one was always a major highlight of the Revenge... records.
This is easily the best Countess album in five years, and maybe even the best since Shining Swords of Hate. If you like the band at all, you owe it to yourself to get this immediately... and if you haven't been convinced by Countess' recent albums, you should investigate this one, because you may be pleasantly surprised. Highest recommendations.
Standout tracks: "A Poet's Parry", "Mad Pharaoh", "Blood Of Our Gods"
Review by vorfeed: http://www.vorfeed.net