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What I always loved of Hades from Norway is their approach to the Viking/black metal. Before changing into Hades Almighty, their style was great for this reason: they were always able to mix perfectly the most epic and obscure influences with a raw form of black metal. Yes, black metal. So, if you’re into the harmless and annoying symphonic/epic/Viking Finnish bands, stay away for this because it’s too black metal oriented in the production and sounds.
They were heavily influenced by Bathory in the period between “Under The sign of the Black Mark” and "Hammerheart”. So, already form here we can understand that they are not into sugary, boring, fantasy melodies. We have no flutes, medieval instruments or feasting noises…the main point is to create epic but obscure melodies. The guitars and few keyboards are the maximum expression of their sound. Everything is quite bare-bone, musically talking and it’s great just like that.
For example, check the introduction to “Pagan Triumph” were the drums rolls and few Viking chorus, united to the guitars, are enough to recreate the perfect epic atmosphere with always the gloom side in evidence. The same can be said for the following “Hecate (Queen Of Hades)”. The tempo in these songs is never too fast and the maximum speed can be referred to the bass drum, that anyway, is never too monotonous and on the same patterns.
The guitars are always great for their work. They are the most important element in this sound I believe. The technique is the open chord one to create landscapes of darkness and epic visions at the same time. There are several parts on arpeggio, both on the acoustic and electric guitars. For this check the great and essential ones in “Glorious Again the Northland Shall Become”. The atmosphere is cold and epic like never before. The track that differs the most is “The Ecstasy of an Astral Journey” because hides inside a lot of apocalyptic melodies that would have arisen with “Millennium Nocturne” album. Also the lyrics are different as you can see.
The few keys on the title track or the ones spread all over the album are prefect to support the dramatic and dark sound. Check “The Spirit of an Ancient Past” for this. The few fast tempo parts are never on pure up tempo or blast beats and I believe it’s better to not cover the beautiful sound with unnecessary aggression. The vocals are again heavily influenced by Bathory but there is also a great component from the Immortal’s debut album. By the way, even Immortal in the beginning were influenced by Bathory.
The bass sound is truly audible because it has a really strong distortion that adds more obscurity and heaviness to the several down tempo parts on this album. The melodic arpeggios supported by the electric guitars of “Be-Witched” and the instrumental, dark “In The Moonless Sky” are the final seals to this great album of pagan black metal. It’s recommended to the lovers of not fast black metal with epic, essential melodies. I’d like to recommend this album also to those who use to listen to modern “Viking metal”, just to have an idea of what the real “black Viking metal” was. It’s a good occasion to go back to the roots of a genre.
I've had this album for about 6 years (roughly, the last decades been blurry), and this just never gets old for me. This is surely one of the best debuts of its era. I'd also go so far as to say this is one of the greatest albums of the early, mid-90's Norwegian scene hands down (hence its score). Recorded in Greighallen June/July '94 with engeneering, and production credits going out to Pytten (killer producer, one of the best), and some guy named David, and with this the sound of a genre was perfected. This is Viking Black Metal the way it was meant to be played. Seriously, if your a fan of Enslaved, Helheim, or Isengard I'm pretty sure you'll love this.
For the most part, this music is melodicly charged excellence. Thanks first to an awesome producer/production, and secondly to great musicians who had undenible ability. The songs really are able to capture a distinct Viking feel,... one crafted through reverence, and enhanced by intelligence. Just amazing structures weaving through perfect riff progressions, drowned in melodic dramatics, and layers offering one's pallete to either search through, or as a grand cloaking background to mentally drop out into. You know, for the guitar tone alone this rises above the fields of half ass, lame bands today, or then. The clean vocals are utillized much like the drums here (and keys which are very limitedly used), meaning they are there more to accent melodicly the rythms put forth, instead of being used as a lead element. The Blackend vocals are equally awesome as any aspect on here seems to me, and really capture a powerfully independent feel.
Every instrument is mixed perfectly, and was produced/recorded by very talented people. From the drums with their a-typical beats, and highly amped up presence, giving a feel of what it would sound like if Thor drew his hammer and had to crush some giants, to the guitars whose rythms, and melodic arrangements give off imagery of vast, snow covered Viking realms of fire, and ice... battle, and victory,... death, and glory. Every song on here is like a war march (well except for the outro-In the moonless sky, which is all keys).
In closing I'd just like to touch on a few thoughts again:
This has melodic structures built upon melodic structures, all of which drift through powerfull rythm progressions, and at base contain the essence of Viking Metal. This has truelly capable musicians who obviously had unique visions, and were talented enough to not only put it down in song, but excell at that. Undoubtedly one of the best products to come from their scene (which competition was tough to say the least), and one which didnt quite get the recognition it deserved. I'd recommend this to all fans of BM, and is essential to fans of Viking Black Metal. Actually, theres not too many other BM albums I'd recommend over this. Get this classic. Now.