without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Root is an iconoclastic, inimitable band that doesn't really sound like anyone else. Their sound is instantly recognizable – a potpourri of slamming, heavy, crushing riffs, dark and fiery melodicism and the powerful, bellowing baritone of frontman and legit Church of Satan founder Big Boss. This is about as real as it gets for this kind of music. There's no posing here, no posturing or shallow imagery – just a tremendous, deep-rooted album of focused, concentrated evil in metallic form. These guys are masters of the craft. Black Seal is one of their best albums.
These songs are all individualistic, memorable and immediate. There's a huge sense of presence and power here, with every riff resonating to your bones, every vocal line shaking high into the night like smoke from ritual fire. The band sounds like they fucking mean it – every song is bold and epic. The riffs are stunningly good – brutal, heavy as fuck guitar workouts, rife with both fat, muscular rhythms and dextrous blazing leadwork. I like that the riffs manage to be melodic without simply going back to the standard Maiden or Priest derivations. Bands that do that are fine most of the time, but Root writes aggressive, dark, feral riffs as mean and brutal as anything on your favorite death or black metal album – but also infuses that with a kind of melody usually only seen in classic metal. The riffs aren't tremolo picked and they don't chug along with the kind of recklessness of a death metal album – these are real classic metal riffs that groove and have actual melody to them, but they're woven into songs as evil and blasphemous as anything you've heard from the aforementioned genres.
The songs never follow a formula, never fall back on cliché – they each take on a life of their own, writhing and twisting into forms no other band could have thought up. “The Festival of Destruction” is a killer opener with riffs and attitude to spare, and “The Incantation of Thessalonian Woman” is a moodier, darker and deeper tune. Further tracks like “Her Eyes Were Dark,” the killer title track and the massive stomp “Necromancy” burst from the speakers with a wild Satanic furor. Epics like the rumbling, melodic wrath of “Salamandra” and the pensive (but no less lethal) “The Mirror of Soul” break up the fast paced stuff with real mood and foreboding to them – excellent, show-stopping song craftsmanship.
“Before I Leave!” is perhaps the album's weirdest and most inaccessible point – a 19 minute track, but only the first six minutes are actual music – a sort of doomy, hypnotic stomp with some really bizarre vocal melodies that sound like Big Boss is of the undead, rising from the grave. After that we get about 13 minutes of nothing but him chanting the final chorus over and over again. It's a bit much, yeah, and frankly I don't play it all the way through – but it doesn't affect the mastery of the rest of this album. If anything, its presence shows a kind of experimental mentality that I admire in a band – though mostly that's because of what I already know about Root anyway.
Big Boss is in a class of his own. The man howls, whispers, intones, narrates and bellows along with the music. On “Thessalonian Woman,” he dips into a sort of barbershop quartet-esque sing-along chant that could have been on an old Beatles track – but of course, in the context of this album, it's actually downright terrifying. He is the heart and soul of this band, and it is the inimical combination of these vocals with this music that makes Black Seal a classic.
Every second of this is bristling with a cracking, dark energy that makes every note sound urgent and diabolical, aided in no small part by the huge, thundering production and mighty guitar sound. This is a legitimately horrifying and dark album far beyond what usually passes for that in metal, with a real vision and unity to the music, so it's perfect for the Halloween season. Root just might convert you to Satanism with this album, so those with an open mind spiritually might do well to check it out this October, under a blood moon when the night's winds kick up...then, it will reveal its power.
"Underrated" and "underappreciated" are two terms which are used an awful lot in the metal scene, but they have perhaps never been so aptly applied as to the Czech Republic's Root. Their sixth album, Black Seal continues down their singular path of musical evolution to arrive at an insular plateau of original style, superior execution, and artistic integrity. Yet, they still seem to be largely unknown. Whether this is due to poor distribution, lack of promotion, or their somewhat esoteric sound is unclear, but it's certainly not due to lack of talent or originality. The stellar production from their last masterpiece The Book reappears here, with a biting but clear guitar tone, warm roomy drums, and lots of enchanting post-production effects. The feel is somewhat similar, but with Root it's almost useless to refer to their past albums for descriptive fodder. They are an ever-changing entity, and their influences are absorbed into their own personal vacuum. There does seem to be more of a doom feel to Black Seal than their past efforts, especially in places like the opening of the title track (which could easily be a Solitude Aeturnus riff) and the creepy plodding crawl of "Liber Prohibitis." Root's real strength lies in their guitar work, their impeccable tone providing a wonderful springboard for some creative chords and stellar lead sections. Ashok is one of the best soloists in the metal scene, his feel and technique are peerless and in a just world he'd be mentioned alongside greats like Michael Denner, Andy LaRocque, Trey Azagthoth and Lars Johansson. One of the most jarring and effective uses of guitar on the album is in the strange tapping horrific melody over the opening staccato riffing of "Nativity." The two guitar parts simultaneously clash and work together, creating a nice sense of tension with the tenuous polyphony that is sadly absent in much of today's music. Vocal terror Big Boss is a multifaceted asset, his demonic howlings and operatic laments providing the most unique aspect of the band. His bizarro-vibrato croonings are more prominent than ever, but yet there is a wide variety of vocal styles and more atonal retchings than on The Book. Fernando of Moonspell is a guest vocalist on "Salamandra," and his subdued approach here is much more effective to these ears than the "ancient sexy vampire" pretensions of his own band's vocal work. Probably the most noticeable difference of Black Seal from their past works is the inclusion of occasional accompanying keyboard lines. Subtle and effective, the use of keyboards imparts a slightly more theatrical feel to the already emotionally charged material. Another in an incredibly long string of classic albums, Black Seal is a resounding success, and hopefully, the beginning of increased recognition and respect for its composers