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Countess is one of those bands where you know what you’re gonna get. With the exception of his “experimental phase” from 1996-2000, singer/songwriter Orlok has released album after album of no BS black metal with a distinctive thrash and heavy metal edge. What has kept Countess going is that Orlok always seems to find a new angle from which to play the same style. While the 13th Countess album, "On Wings of Defiance" doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, it does zone in on the strengths of the past few albums—the epic, heavy metal inspired tracks—refines that sound and brings it together for an hour of chant-along-and-bang-your-head black metal.
The album centers on the theme of Barbarian warriors and their battles against the invading Roman and British Empires. The lyrics are pretty straight forward; our gods rule and your gods suck, our soldiers are brave and yours are cowards and so and so forth. It’s pretty cheesy, but Orlok makes it work. The album has so many grandiose choruses, blazing solos and sweeping melodies that you can’t help but look around for your sword and shield and say “fuck it, let’s kill some Romans!”
As always, Orlok’s vocals are awesome, shifting between his signature crow-like cackle and a lower, gritty shout. Once again, he uses a drum machine which adds a shabby quality to the recording, but his solid work on guitar and bass compensate.
While the album is solid from start to finish, the final two tracks are the highlights. “An Emperor’s Last Stand” is a slow, cinematic song that describes the reign of the final pagan ruler of the Roman Empire, Julian the Apostate. The song slowly and tragically marches toward the Empire's inevitable downfall, praising Julian while mourning the end of the pagan era in Europe. The closer “On Wings of Defiance,” is a dramatic call to battle. Glorious, fiery lead guitars and synths dance over a punkie rhythm section while Orlok’s screeching vocals warn of the resilient return of heathen culture to Europe. As a bonus, the album also includes some badass covers of Demon and Venom songs. These short, quick and catchy covers are the perfect pallet cleanser after a series of massive, sweeping tracks.
"On Wings of Defiance" an album for those like the metal in their black metal. Countess’s gallant style owes as much to Manowar and Manilla Road as it does to Bathory and Venom. If you can tolerate a little cheese for a lot of epic, then "On Wings of Defiance" is highly recommended.
(Originally written for http://www.deafsparrow.com/)