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First of all, let me tell you: Countess is heavily influenced by NWOBHM and its neo-classical compositions have little to do with pure, grim Black Metal, only the early works were more of that. A nice feature is the percussion, rocky and bouncy, but interesting and more varied than in the rest of the black territory, being not obsessed with blastbeats like lots of bands tend to. Great examples here like Thermopylae. The guitar tone also brings old heavy metal to mind, harsher than the smooth heavy metal and less razor slash than the purist black. The structures of the songs are insanely repetitive, so the listener is in critical danger of boredom and sleep. Did I say sleep? Forget about sleeping. The vocals are fucking loud and the most annozing aspect. Heilig Vuur had an irritating muffled sound on vocals, so the guy sounded like Pluto the dog on drugs, a monotonous and uneffective barking. Well, Donald Fuck, where the duck are you? Right here, on this album. This effect belongs more to noise rock, and it does not fit too well. If it comes to free screaming, Varg and Landfermann are masters. But not Orlok.
In conclusion, a valuable album, mandatory for Countess worshippers. But I prefer Heilig Vuur to this; even if I am not a big Countess fan, I can digest the music and even this FUCKING quack-quacks!
This is the tenth full-length album from Countess, a Dutch one-man band playing Orthodox Black Metal.
The mood of Spawn of Steel is very close to that of the songs on Hell's Rock and Roll. That means triumphant, unapologetic black METAL. There's hardly a downbeat moment on this record, which is roughly split between historical themes and fervent paeans to the ways of heavy metal. The former recall classics like "Son of the Dragon" and "A Warlord's Swansong", while the latter's Manowar-style lyrics and rousing guitar lines are closer to "The Triumph of Steel". A few repeated themes ("to no man I'll kneel", "hail to the king") lend the album a strong sense of unity, and some echoes from the past ("the priest must die!") give it an equally powerful link to the rest of Countess' work.
The guitar sound on this album is similar to that of Countess' last one, Heilig Vuur, but the vocals are much higher in the mix. The final product is the best mix that Countess has ever had - if only both parts of Revenge of the Horned One had sounded like this! Orlok's guitar playing has improved quite a bit, as well.
The opener, "The Call of Steel", starts out with a touch of the familiar Countess intro, but very quickly jumps straight into some echoing guitar. The song itself is a solo-laden black metal anthem with an interesting lyrical construction - after every two lines, there's two very short lines, snarled in true Countess style. Add that to the chorus, and you can't help but sing along to this one.
"Trumpets of Dawn" is a short, war-themed stomper that breaks up the mood between two more epic songs. The solo here has plenty of feeling, and the repetition of "ride, to war!" gets my blood pumping. This one would be great live.
"Sword and Sceptre" tells the story of a prince in exile, with excellent lyrics and another amazing chorus. Most of the greatness of this song lies in the interplay between the music and vocals.
"Torch the House of God" harks back to songs like "In Hate of Christ" and "The Priest Must Die". The point here is straightforward blasphemy, complemented with Bathoryesque riffing.
"Alone Against the World" begins with a short, declared passage, set to contemplative guitar and tambourine. The song itself reinforces that mood with defiant riffing and mid-paced lead guitar. The lyrics here are quite inspirational.
"Thermopylae" is one of the greatest Countess songs ever, with a stunning main guitar theme and lyrics based in historical fact. The repetition of "Thermopylae!" combined with the guitar line creates a feeling of defiance, as befits the story.
In the whole of "Spawn of Steel", there's no song more Manowar than "The Metal Creed". Simple riffing, power guitar leads, and a yell-along chorus make this one easy to enjoy. The pair of solos about halfway through are especially great.
It's tough to decide which is the better song: "Rise of the Warrior King" or "Thermopylae". This one has the advantage of the single best chorus on an album full of them, as well as more cool vocals/instruments interplay. The blasphemous lyrics are a fine touch, too.
The haunting guitar theme from "Ghosts of Leather" combines with an odd, shuffling riff to give this song an unsettling feel. This one has the best lyrics of the metal anthems on the album. They recall the glory days of metal, while refusing to give in to the present... much like the album itself.
"Knights of Baphomet" tells the story of the Knights Templar. It starts off with some demented soloing, then moves into a slower section. The solo that comes after "...the left-hand path" might just be the best on the album.
"The Seal of Wrath" is about as fast as Countess gets, with some frantic strumming and nearly non-stop vocals. This one does a fine job of breaking the mood between "Knights..." and the next song.
"The March of the Ten Thousand" starts and ends with the sound of the sea. In between is this album's epic, a twelve-minute song with tons of martial riffing and solos. This is the most atmospheric of the songs on this album. The last few minutes are particularly haunting.
The album closes with a cover of Manilla Road's "The Veils of Negative Existence". It's about what you'd expect from a Countess cover of this song, and makes an excellent closer for an album so clearly inspired by the ancient ways of metal.
As good as Heilig Vuur was, Spawn of Steel is even better. The mix allows the vocals to stand out as they should, the vocals are complemented by thoughtful lyrics (included in the booklet!), and the entire thing is brought together by memorable guitar work. If you like some Metal mixed in with your Black, or some Black mixed in with your Metal, this should be the first thing on your shopping list. Spawn of Steel is easily the album of the year for 2005, so far, and I've no reason to expect it to be dethroned. Highest recommendations!
Standout tracks: "Thermopylae", "Ghosts of Leather", "Rise of the Warrior King"
Review by Vorfeed: http://www.vorfeed.net
I haven't previously heard Countess before this album. Therefore this band completely threw me a curveball, and I didn't know what to expect. I just first off want to say that this CD clocks in at 66+ minutes of pure melodic black metal.
I don't know if I could really classify this as just a style of black metal. This CD produces and mixes together a series of great power metal riffs with some songs featuring some minature power metal riff style solos. The drumming lays for a good background beat and leg for the rest of the music. There are also a tad bit of keys through the songs. Orlok displays some amazing musicianship throughout the course of this long album. This album is like the traditional black metal recording, where the instruments drown out other key elements, or where the quality is just down to its raw roots. This CD balances everything well. The vocals are in a style of very brutal, harsh vocals. The vocals remind me of Dub Buk, which isn't a bad thing, but not something I really expected, they're still great nonetheless. The vocals were just something you couldn't pitcher with the melodic tone of this album. The lyrical work is just phenomenal, with some really epic titles like "Trumpets of Dawn", and "Sword and Sceptre". This is one black metal album I didn't expect to come across. From eerie guitar solos to hyperfast power guitar riffs. The 12th track "March of the Ten Thousand"(the one that clocks in at 11+ minutes) has one of the best black metal intros i've ever come across.
With a long story short, this album is catchy for being a black metal album. Not to mention it is down right insane irons.gif. The only thing I could have changed to make this album any better was possibly change the harsh vocals to a more grim style of vocals that are experimented in the likes of Finntroll or Equilibrium. To own's taste I suppose though. If the vocals couldn't have been changed I would of liked to have seen some transition with some grim/deep vocals to the basic harsh vocals used on this albums production.