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Even more variety and feeling than Spawn... - 95%

vorfeed, August 21st, 2006

This is the eleventh album from Countess, a Dutch one-man band band playing orthodox black/heavy metal.

I can sum this album up in less than ten words: "Spawn of Steel meets Book of the Heretic". The nimble bass & guitar work and greater variation in pacing and atmosphere remind me of Book..., but other than that the production and songwriting are very much as they were on Countess' previous album. The thick rhythm guitar and cutting leads have returned, along with clean bass, mic-distorted vocals and subtle computer drums. The whole thing adds up to triumphant black metal with prominent heavy metal overtones. The production on this album is excellent overall, but I really wish that the vocals were a bit clearer. Orlok's lyrics are genius, but they're difficult to make out on a few of the songs. This is especially unfortunate in the case of "Rebel Stand".

"My Sword Never Sleeps" opens the album with some classic mid-paced Countess. The lyrics here are like a combination of "Thus Spoke The Master" and "Alone Against The World" -- definitely a high point of the album. The lead and bass duet halfway through is especially great.

"Holocaust of the God Believers": The tambourine sound on this track is a touch of genius! I really like the chorus, as well. The "into the ovens!" section is about the heaviest thing Countess has ever written. In fact, the entire song is outstanding!

The main theme of "Het Woud Der Verdoemden" is incredibly haunting. The vocal delivery on this track is just about perfect, vicious and fierce enough to balance the melodic lead work. The bass lines on this track deserve mention as well.

"Clarion Call Of Destiny" is an ode-to-metal chock full of stirring guitar and sing-along parts ("Metal! Is our Destiny!"). I can't get enough of the middle section of this song.

"Sogdian Rock" harks back to early Countess, with plenty of aggressive Bathory-style riffing. It's a shame, but the vocals on this one are almost entirely incomprehensible... you'll probably figure out the name of the song by the time it's over, though.

"Rebel Stand" is easily the best song on the album. The quiet intro, the stately guitar, and the insanely moving lead work give me the shivers every time I play it. The tempo changes on this song are sublime! The only flaw in this one is the vocals: the performance is powerful, but just as on "Sogdian Rock", it's hard to make out what Orlok is saying at times. Even so, this is one of the all-time best Countess songs.

"Black Crusade" is another song that harks back to the atmosphere of mid-period Countess. The sweeping rhythm guitar and impassioned vocals are inspiring. I like the martial drumming sections as well. This one is a fine example of black metal lyrical mastery -- the variation in the chorus is especially cool.

The main theme is more than enough to make "Lof Der Gemaskerde" memorable, but it's also got some smooth leads. This is the simplest song on the album in structure, with two alternating sections.

"Columbine High Blues" is just as it says: a bluesy song, heavy on the bass. The interplay between the lead guitar and the simple, driving rhythm really makes this song work. This is one of the most interesting songs on the album... it's always nice to hear something entirely different.

"Horror of Harlot Hill" is a slow song dripping with Satanic atmosphere. The vocals have a great amount of impact, especially during the chorus. This one reminds me of Countess' older stuff.

"Black Metal Storm" speeds things up again. Songs like this make me grateful that not every band has forgotten Venom's legacy!

"Lage Landen" is the album's epic. The Dutch vocals, layered guitar, and thick bass help to create an atmosphere a lot like that of Heilig Vuur. I especially like the rhythm guitar during the middle part.

The album closes with a cover of Alastis' "Messenger Of The U.W." It's a pretty good job of covering the heavy death/doom of the original. The moment when the guitars come in is especially powerful.

Holocaust of the God Believers has a lot more variety than Spawn of Steel did. Every single song has something different in it, and after tons of spins I'm still finding new things to like about it. I suppose the album could be shorter by about fifteen minutes without losing anything, but who's going to complain about getting more Countess? Certainly not I. If you already like this band, there's no excuse for not getting this. If you haven't heard Countess yet, this is a very good place to start. Highest recommendations.

Standout tracks: "Holocaust of the God Believers", "Rebel Stand", "Black Crusade"