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The first Countess album offers primitive black metal which seems to be inspired by Bathory’s “The Return” and “Under the Sign of the Black Mark” plus Hellhammer. This is “fresh” in the sense that Countess at least didn’t try to copy the sound of the Norwegian scene like so many others did, yet nobody can claim that this album brings anything new to the table (even for 1993’s standards) – it doesn’t. Countess simply pay tribute to old school black metal and are content with that.
The playing isn’t always that tight, e.g. on some tracks you can notice how the bass and guitar play out of time with each other. The structure of the music is very simple; there are only a few riffs per track. This means that the tracks sometimes suffer from too much repetitiveness but despite this I still can’t say that this is a totally terrible album. It just stays too close to Countess’ influences for comfort and is unable to reach the same level as their influences. These types of albums are always a bit difficult for me because even if I like old school BM, I think bands should also try to bring some own identity into their music. Otherwise we can just keep listening to those old classics, as there’s not really any incentive to bother with the new bands, right? Most of the time the music is mid-paced but songs like e.g. “Doomed to Die” and “Crossing the Fires of Darkness” contain blastbeats too, although these blastbeats aren’t very fast. There’s synth on some tracks for extra atmosphere but as I’m sure you already understood, symphonic black metal this is not. Even some guitar solos can be found and they are pure Bathory rip-offs.
The production is OK: rough but not of the overtly thin’n’trebly kind of many early 90s BM releases (and certainly better than on latter Countess albums like e.g. “The Return of the Horned One” and “The Book of the Heretic”). I’d say the band have gone for a production similar to the first two Bathory albums and Hellhammer’s “Satanic Rites” demo. They also succeed quite well with this. The only thing I really dislike about the production is that the drums and the vocals are too low in the mix.
“Overture” is the only non-metal track: a somewhat creepy ambient piece consisting of keyboard soundscapes. It’s not a bad track as such but it lasts too long, over four minutes. I’d say about a minute’s length would have been suitable for this track because it’s quite boring in its present form. The only people I recommend “The Gospel of the Horned One” to are those that are completely fanatic about old school black metal and don’t give a shit about originality. Countess does succeed paying tribute to an era, however, the lack of own ideas, the clumsiness, the unnecessarily long ambient track and the oddly loose structure (perhaps I should call it arrangements) of some of the tracks leave a lot to be desired.