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Still pure genius - 91%

Noktorn, November 28th, 2007

If 'Pagan Wolves' was the audial equivalent of being ensorcelled and surrounded by some monolithic icestorm, with the entropic features of nature's potent forces creating a raw, harsh beauty, 'Foresight' is the sensation of the wind ending it's swirling patterns and instead pushing insistently at your back as you march through the snow towards a brutal yet gorgeously unfolding battle. I think that nothing could possibly cement Pagan Hammer better as the greatest single force in today's underground USBM scene than the opening riff of 'Forseeable War - Odin's Sign', which embodies every single thing that black metal should be: raw, powerful, brutal, and vicious, yet melodic, emotional, epic, and romantic, and with an added edge of pagan and folk tone found frequently in other places, but never executed so flawlessly. If you ignore all the beauty in writing, construction, and concept, the very sounds, the pure sonic aesthetics of this music, are absolutely unbelievable. It is some of the most beautiful SOUNDING metal that I've ever heard, and that's on top of its actual content.

'Foresight' sounds soft yet frozen, much like the previous demo, but without that one's massively droning cord of guitar running through its four tracks. It is now more a moderate snowstorm rather than the wall of ice that 'Pagan Wolves' was, with the overall sound more balanced, but still maintaining that incredibly cold, ruthless beauty that defined the first demo. The guitar tone must be some of the best that metal has ever seen, sustaining massively, thick and heavy and brutal, like a million notes are being played at once and just slid up and down the fretboard, with every change in chord sounding like a slide closer or further away from any idea of warmth. Nothing sudden ever happens in this music; everything is crafted ever so slowly and deliberately, with an attack of ride cymbal coming right at the end of the correct number of lines, a burst of (still massively distorted, though quieter this time) vocals appearing flawlessly in the center of the riffing. It is music that most certainly requires an attention span, with the great deal of repetition and lengthy, cyclic song structures. It is most certainly not for those seeking qualities other than pure atmosphere and songwriting.

The two originals are at least as good as any of those on 'Pagan Wolves'. The first track is pure beauty carved out of two immortal riffs and endless atmosphere; nothing more need be said. The next, 'The Rotting Battlefield', resembles more the material off of 'Pagan Wolves', with a more droning quality and longer stretches of notes; however, it is more rhythmic and rolling than anything on that demo. It is an excellent track in its own right, and ALMOST measures up to the genius of the first one without quite eclipsing it; then again, little else possibly could. The second half of the demo is composed of two covers: Satanic Warmaster's 'Remembrance Of Forgotten Times', and, of course, Mayhem's 'Freezing Moon'. The first track fits in rather snugly with the other Pagan Hammer originals; despite being at a lower tempo, the repetitive riffing and general melodic structure meshes with the band's aims without trouble. 'Freezing Moon' is a worthy rendition, but is obviously the odd man out in this four-tracker, with a decidedly more misanthropic and Satanic aura than the other tracks on here. It's not quite a misstep, though it is probably the weak point of the demo. Nevertheless, the strength of the rest of the material easily makes up for such an issue.

'Foresight' has only confirmed for me that Pagan Hammer is easily one of the greatest musical endeavors in underground USBM today. With an undeniable singularity of style, content, and form, this demo has risen to the top of my recent plays, serving as a fantastic example of how epic, ambient black metal SHOULD be composed by lesser artists. If it comes as a surprise to those reading this review that a one-man black metal project from North Carolina has usurped supposedly classic artists from my regular listening patterns, I advise you to immediately give Pagan Hammer's music a once-over and see just how much sense it makes. It takes enormous resolve to craft music so undeniably beautiful and powerfully written as this, and so I heartily recommend that all metalheads purchase a copy of this and support one of the true greats of today's scene. Pagan Hammer is masterful and is only getting stronger with time, so there's no better moment than now to investigate this artist's catalog and become acquainted with its stirring, romantic sound.