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Eclectic minimalist BM in its own way - 75%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, February 4th, 2008

Not long after putting out their debut album "Verdandi", the Russian BM band Raven Dark also released "Berustet av Kriegsdronnet" which is a better and more varied effort than its forerunner. On both albums the musicians were the same: Ulv Gegner Irminsson on all strings, Kaldrad on screams and shrieks and Wizard on sticks duties, so the difference between the two albums must be due entirely to the players' decision to stretch their abilities and knowledge more which is an indication of their increased confidence and an attitude of playing as much for themselves as for their audience and blow anyone who thinks they should keep strictly to a BM template.

There are six tracks, the title track coming up first and taking up where the first album left off (I'm assuming the albums were recorded in the order they were released): fast and very minimalist BM but with a clearer and cleaner sound that makes the vocals easier to hear, though not to follow. Kaldrad's singing is very distant in the mix and his voice is treated with a fair amount of echo. At least the rhythms are easier to hear so any changes in them can be better appreciated. The lyrics have become very war-like and they now strive for a heroic transcendence beyond the material world beset by war, fire, destruction and death.

"Enteared av Dreamhorizont" comes and goes in similar straightforward no-nonsense fashion and it's with the third track "Above the Blazes of Sunrise" that something completely new happens: Irminsson swaps his electric axes for acoustic guitars and so instead of constant acid guitar rainstorms we get long flowing silver streams of strummed guitar. All a bit like gypsy folk or flamenco without the castanets, the flouncing and stamping heels; sometimes the track has the desolate feel of a soundtrack to one of those old spaghetti / paella westerns filmed in the 1960s, there is that still atmosphere where the guitar sound may have a slight echo. No singing, no drumming, just strummy guitar trilling up and down the scale: very lovely and relaxing.

"Blinded by Idollight" brings back the electric guitars and the earlier severe militaristic approach - not very much happens here. By contrast, the following track "For Glory Hat" sees the musicians throwing in everything they've got: changing military rhythms, Kaldrad trying out clean near-operatic singing together with his usual harsh screaming and Irminsson delivering a stern and implacable vibrato BM guitar front from which a lead guitar takes up a rallying battle tune. The lyrics are merciless and cruel with the images of an advancing Angel of Death figure mowing down humanity in its path.

The outro track is surprising: "Through the Burial Bonfire" sounds like an all-keyboard affair with chilling acid-spiked organ tones. It's very repetitive and all the more creepy with those tones penetrating far into the crevasses of the brain.

With this recording Raven Dark maintain their distinctive style of fast and steely BM with an almost ridiculously simple and repetitive approach to writing songs and at the same time dive into other musical territory to create completely instrumental and often evocative pieces or to borrow some element to embellish the basic BM style. This would be something that related Blazebirth Hall projects like Forest would take up as well. At the time "Berustet ..." was recorded (some time in 1997), Raven Dark was obviously on the verge of creating a type of very heroic / tragic black metal drama with considerable feeling and a fair amount of musical eclecticism. This would have been an interesting development given that this band and its related projects were ideologically committed to National Socialist beliefs which might superficially be presumed by others to be of a kind which would discourage people from mixing BM with other genres of music. Although I suspect that such beliefs might actually vary from one country to another so Russian NSBM beliefs might overlap with NSBM beliefs in other countries on the one hand but also include ideas and notions about what constitutes Russian values and the Russian character, and what forms of art best suit the Russian culture so in a sense such a belief system would already be "eclectic" in its own way and mixing different types of music would not be against such beliefs.