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Essential Black Metal - 94%

CannibalCorpse, August 18th, 2006

Two bands were responsible for a new style in Black metal: Rotting Christ and Varathron. Both bands released their debut albums in 1993, and both were the first to fully utilize this style with these full-lengths, "Thy Mighty Contract" and "His Majesty at the Swamp." Rotting Christ had more luck and were signed to a larger label and got a lot more fame for their first works, so the foundation credit for Hellenic Black Metal is often solely given to Rotting Christ's debut. So "His Majesty at the Swamp" had to be rediscovered years later and today, the album finally gets at least SOME attention and is acknowledged as the second part of the Hellenic BM foundation.

But enough with the history lessons, onward to the album itself.

The album opens with the title track, which is merely an introduction to the albums sound and mood, and you might find yourself skipping over it after two or three listens. The first real song is "Son of the Moon (Act II)" and it welcomes you with a typical Greek BM riff ("typical" is great for Hellenic BM) and raspy growls. The track is "catchy" as hell (in the Black Metal sense) and you'll find yourself nodding your head and feet to it. The track represents the album well, it's generally mid-paced, quite melodic and has this special occult feeling, Rotting Christ and Varathron both shared in their early albums. The only drawback on the song is the length. it clocks in at more than seven and a half minutes and a few riffs are just a bit too similar, and there's not much variation in terms of speed. Not a major fault though, since all the riffs are top-notch quality.

"Unholy Funeral", "Lustful Father", "Nightly Kingdoms" and "The River of My Souls" are all in the same vein, mostly mid-paced, only interrupted by a few faster, tremolo-picked riffs, but more varied and not as long as "Son of the Moon".

The speedy stuff starts with "Flowers of My Youth" which has very fast tremolo- picked riffs and fast, menacing vocal work. Stephan's vocals are quite unique, sometimes it sounds like he's talking with a raspy voice, or growling the verses in a very decipherable way. The (very well written) lyrics can be understood well.

Then my personal favourite track comes: "The Tressrising Of Nyarlathothep (Act I)"
The intro riff is probably my favourite riff on the whole album, and the song itself has a very epic feeling at times, the riffs have a very melancholic and moving feeling to them. Great varied vocal work to be found here. The song is very long, almost as long as "Son of the Moon" but has more parts to keep the listener interested. "The Grim Palace" is another epic track with some great keyboard/orchestra support and probably the fastest riffs on here.

"His Majesty at the Swamp" can basically be divided into two parts. The first 25 minutes consist of the slow and brooding tracks with the most typical mid-paced Hellenic BM riffing and the fast, epic 20 minutes, with great orchestra, acoustic and keyboard work.

The album flows very well and when you start, you' probably listen to it until it's very end. Recommended for all fans of Hellenic Metal. "His Majesty at the Swamp" might not be as strong as "Thy Mighty Contract", but it's definitely as historically important as Rotting Christ's debut opus.

Highlights:

Unholy Funeral, Lustful Father, The Tressrising Of Nyarlathothep (Act I)