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Rare indeed is a newer black metal band, much less a Norwegian one, worth more than half a listen. For a long while now, next to nothing new or worthwhile has come from the black metal scene, particularly in Norway, where the genre originates. Rather, we've been stuck with nothing but stagnation and stagnation disguised as experimentation by means of the incorporation of pretentious symphonics or completely superfluous synthesizers. With Faustcoven, though, there is no attempt at progression, no rehashed nonsense used to further peddle black metal as the commodity it has become - no, there is nothing here but badassery, balls, and brilliance. More to the band's credit, and to the shame of the rest of the scene, this masterpiece was created by a single man who works full-time as a chemical engineer (an earlier version of this review mistakenly referred to his position as "homicide detective" - my apologies for the retarded confusion!), and considers music to be nothing more than a hobby to devote a little bit of time to here and there. By all rights, this should be cliche garbage, at the very best. Instead, though, what we have here with Faustcoven's The Halo of Burning Wings is the pinnacle of doom-influenced black metal - or as the man behind it calls it, "doomy and morbid black metal".
On this 43-minute long journey through auditory hell, the listener's ears are assaulted with some incredibly ballsy riffs very reminiscent of 80s-era Black Sabbath and Hellhammer, with much the same fuzzy-yet-clear production quality one would expect from that time period as well. Solos are few, and tremolo picking runs rampant, but this is no run-of-the-mill black metal act - the picking fits in perfectly with the rest of the instrumental ensemble, and never feels repetitive, and the solos themselves are everything one can hope for, and more. For a fine example, give the last 30 seconds or so of the track "Black Riders" a listen - right after "Gunnar" shouts out "SOLO FOR SATAN!". You'll be absolutely fucking floored; it's brilliant.
The album's tongue-in-cheek Satanic lyrics also do a lot for the music. Again, a quote from the track "Black Riders":
Its safe to say they look mean
Goathorns will do that to a demon
As if that was not enough:
Look at the swords theyï¿½ve brought
Skulls hang from their wings
Thatï¿½s always a bad sign
It's the sheer evilness with which they're growled that really gives them an edge - the words themselves, and the man as a person, show that he realizes the imagery is just that - imagery; an illusion. When you combine these two factors in the way that Faustcoven does, you get a truly unique and enjoyable experience in a way that's virtually unheard of anymore.
While The Halo of Burning Wings positively oozes brutality, there's also some real toe-tapping catchiness to be found amidst it all as well, especially in tracks like "Red Moon, Black Magic" and two-parter "Castle of the Tyrant"/"Return to the Castle". There are no obnoxious, uninspired choruses, as is often the impression one gets when something is called "catchy" - instead, Faustcoven relies solely on unique, 80s-style riffage that will end up stuck in your head for days - a difficult thing to do with this kind of music.
Ultimately, The Halo of Burning Wings is an immensely enjoyable romp through some old-school-sounding "doomy" black metal. Highly recommended for virtually anyone, especially 80s Black Sabbath and Judas Priests fans. Definitely look out for this man's next album later in 2008.
For all intents and purposes, the old Norwegian black metal scene of yesterday has degenerated into a cesspool of ill-advised experimentation, incredibly fruity image-driven posturing and gimmicks. Finding a band from Norway that hasn't abandoned their original creative drive in favour of lilting
"atmospheric" synth-crap, psuedo-electronica faggotry or overproduced oblivion would best be described with the old adage of finding a needle in a haystack. Therefore, it's quite refreshing indeed to find a band like Faustcoven, just to prove that not all Norwegians wish they could win
the Eurovision song contest while retaining a raspy vocal approach.
Built on a rock-solid foundation of old-school doom metal and both first-wave and second-wave black metal, Faustcoven has forged these two seemingly incompatible elements into a seething blackened whole. Crushing riffs that wouldn't seem out of place on one of Black Sabbath's 70's classics mingle in a cauldron with the kind of slashing blackthrash that brings to mind a mixture of classic Bathory and Darkthrone.
In other words, three pivotal branches of metal's evilution (spelling intentional, thank you very much) are fused here with ample success. Kicking off with "Under The Pagan Hammer", a self-described deathmarch for the fall of christianity, the songs here will simply embed theselves in your skull and refuse to budge. Then "Annointed In Flames" speeds up slightly, but not into the blastfest you might be expecting. This is pure oldschool, so you won't find any grindcore elements. Just a brain-squashing weight created by sludge, morbid atmosphere and grime.
Moving through the disc, "Black Riders" shows massive improvement from the demo version, "Baptized In Goat Blood" spews blasphemy in the finest Quorthonite fashion, and "Oldschool War" is pure Venom/Motorhead worship -"Obey the priest of Hell's command, bang your head and slay the lamb" indeed.
Then there's the two-part knockout combo of "Castle Of The Tyrant" and "Return To The Castle", the latter of which especially is an insane statement of intent. Following that, the instrumental title track wraps proceedings up on a quieter note, trailing off into the darkness...
and forcing you to hit the Repeat button while scraping your jaw off the ground. Faustcoven is certainly a unique entity among the hordes of derivative bands active today (not that there's anything wrong with being derivative...), with just enough obvious influences to make it familiar enough to enjoy immediately. Anyone disappointed with where the Norwegian black metal scene has been going over the past few years owes it to themselves to check this one out.