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Kansas black metal horde Stonehaven have given us a promising glimpse into USBM’s future in the form of sophomore offering Concerning Old-Strife and Man-Banes. As a black metal album it’s sort of all over the place, but the album’s unpredictable nature is actually what makes it so interesting. Often the band will switch from depressive, Burzumic atmospheric riffing to more old-school punkish guitar work, even flirting with Enslaved-like progressive riffs in several places. The vocals and drumming are fairly typical but they certainly get the job done, and more importantly they stay out of the way while the guitars spout everything from sickly melodies to raw power chord blasts and chilling atmospherics. From the band’s press release it sounds like Stonehaven prides themselves on their colorful style, using bits and pieces of various black metal subgenres to convey a theme of old world horrors:
“Our album is the end product of years of hard work. It captures the horrors of old world Europe: atrocity, murder, and Norse Heathenism.From aggressive black metal riffs to magnificent Viking melodies, Concerning Old-Strife And Man-Banes encapsulates a journey into the terrifying past of our ancestors.”
The production of the album is a little weird, with everything mixed toward the higher end to give the guitars a sickly sort of quality rather than the more expansive, powerful sound that some modern black metal bands employ. Regardless of their production choice, Concerning Old-Strife and Man-Banes is definitely impressive and showcases the significant amount of talent and songwriting creativity this band has. The lack of a focused sound is not really a concern and is something that many more established bands are also guilty of; ultimately it comes down to whether a band can temper the schizophrenic nature of their songs with riffs that are actually good, and Stonehaven certainly show the ability to do that on this album. The production issue is a bit noticeable but doesn’t detract from the band’s vision or the enjoyment of the album too much. Concerning Old-Strife and Man-Banes is one of this year’s more exciting US black metal releases so far, and fans should make sure to check it out.
(Originally written for Musical Warfare)
After that recent encounter with the brilliant release by Hordak, that interest in black/folk metal has once again been reignited in me. Stonehaven's brand new release, Concering Old-Strife and Man-Bane may be a mouthful, but that anti-Christian, tribal artwork, that usage of the runes, all bring about a pagan feel to the album even before listening to the music that is contained on it.
But unlike the aforementioned Hordak, Stonehaven's offerings on Concerning Old-Strife and Man-Bane leans more towards black metal territory, and throughout the album, parallels with Norwegian black metal band Taake are often drawn, with the similarity in the execution style of the band and the folk elements that the band has littered throughout, instantly reminding listeners of Taake's more recent materials. Right from the start of Suffering the Swine Array, there is a Norwegian black metal feel in the ominous riffs of guitarists Nick and Caleb, and vocalist Stephen's shrieks and howls bear an uncanny resemblance to Taake's Hoest, and is sure to please fans of that style of black metal. While the riffing on Concerning Old-Strike and Man-Bane are mostly simplistic, Nick and Caleb display versatility in their playing styles, and there are times where songs almost have a later-Satyricon feel to them, especially on tracks like Of the White Fall and Frozen Walls.
The band's ability to craft catchy songs are also constantly proven on the album, with that perfect fusion of folk and pagan styles and more aggressive black metal moments. The smooth transition between different styles is also evidence of the band's songwriting abilities, such as on Death Fetter, where there is a constant shift between different styles, ranging from pure cold black metal to a somewhat rock 'n' roll style, not only in the instrumentation but also in the atmosphere of the music. That said though, there are times when tracks overstay their welcome, with tracks like Of the White Fall and Frozen Walls running for over 8 minutes and the last few minutes of the track basically containing the same riffs over and over again, affecting what would have otherwise been a rather enjoyable track and fortunately, this mostly afflicts the aforementioned track as later tracks tend to keep the listener engaged from start to end.
Though a far-cry away from more experienced bands like Taake with the slight inconsistency, the ability for a band to release material of such quality as the music on Concerning Old-Strife and Man-Bane is certainly surprising and a mark of the potential Stonehaven holds.