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Unique Black Metal - 84%

InfinityX, July 23rd, 2009

First thing, even if you don't like extended tracks, this album is still worth a peek. It has a dark tone that makes you feel like you’re in a longboat sailing for battle. Let’s face it, the album is epic. Nearly an hour long with two epic tracks. But trust me, the music is epic too, not just the lengths. And it’s anything but repetitive.

The first track is the majority of the album; clocking in at over 30 minutes long. It is longer and better then the second song. The beginning sets the tone with sorrowful ambience and crackling fire. It gradually builds up, adding reverb from the amps then drums, up until it really gets going. Thankfully the music isn't repetitive at all and changes and flows well. The transitions are particularly good, allowing it to flow seamlessly.

This creates a stream of music that is easy to just lay back your head and listen to. The guitar is in the lead but not just pointless solo after pointless solo. It works with the other instruments (a rarity in the death and black metal genres). The bass is actually used, often in quieter moments of the album. The drums generally keep rhythm. The keyboards create ambience. And the vocals aren't just in there because they can. They help create rhythm. Plus the harsh vocals are performed well and don't just sound like sound.

At the end of Stream of Shadows (English), it leads right into Land Driven into the Fire, making the album one big song really. The above harmony is reproduced, but musically is a bit more repetitive. Though still really good, it doesn't quite measure up. It has deeper drumming and even blast beats at points. The guitar is distorted a little much and it ends a little weak for how epic the album is. It doesn't have the ambient feel of Stream of Shadows. Its tribal beginning is the only real dark part of the song. The rest being more straightforward black metal. That isn't a problem, in fact if you like the more straightforward sound it is an advantage. But for a 26 minute song, it should have a little more diversity.

Having said that, overall the sound does change and progress well. Diverse riffs, great bass, powerful drumming. This is also one of the few black metal albums with which I can actually clearly hear the bass at times. That in itself adds a unique dynamic to the sound. Another unique aspect to the music is the backing vocals. They differ from high pitched vocables, to deep tribal grunting. It puts the listener in an epic atmosphere that helps create the mood of the music.

The lyrics are sung in Finnish, but the sheet has the English. It tells a Viking tale as we would expect, but is written very well and is fun to read while you listen. I respect them for having such rhythm while singing in Finnish!

The production of the album is a little flawed. In the second song especially, the drums sound a little too deep. And everything sounds a bit "noisy". But all in all there’s nothing to really complain about with this album.

Its very good music. Its good black metal, with some epic flavoring that makes it more original. Worth a listen to all fans of the genre definitely. Progressive and epic fans would like it to. If you hate extended tracks, listen to it while you clean or something. It helps set the tone.

Rating- 84/100 or a 4 out of 5