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Vlad Tepes are always kinda strange and surprising to me. Despite their association with all that is grim and kvlt about Black Metal, their songs (ignoring the terrible production) are all fairly melodic and quite entertaining to listen to. This album is no exception to this rule (which is good, because this 'rule' on the one other Vlad Tepes release I have), and to me that's what this album is: Some solid black metal, lots of good riffs, terrible production, nothing less and certainly nothing more.
The production isn't as bad as the other release I have, but it's still fairly bad, with everything real fuzzy and muddied up, terrible sounding cymbals, and a mix which somehow manages to bury everything under everything (Guitars are too quiet, Vocals are too quiet, Drums are too quiet. Weird..). But yeah, there's some terrific songs here. War Funeral March is the hugest riff-fest ever, with some good riffs in many varied tempos. Vlad Tepes really excel at mid-paced, really crunchy riffs, that seem to be very un-black metal. Not that I mind though. From the Celtic Moonfrost has one of the most terrible, cliched BM titles ever, but it's a bit faster and a total barn stormer. Most of the other songs follow this formula- fairly fast but not [i] that [/i] fast, which is nice. There's some interesting lead breaks too, some which are really, really quiet, but they're still real nice, like the brief but excellent solo in Returning to my Old Battlegrounds.
I imagine most metalheads will love the riffs, but the vocals are a lot more of an acquired taste. They're loud, really abrasive and quite disturbing. I hated them at first, and while I don't love them now, I have to admit they're real powerful. Not too many BM shrieks here folks, it's mostly some real vicious growling. The drums are really quiet, and there's not much you can say about them, but they keep the riffs flowing along, and I don't see what's wrong with that.
This definitely isn't the most insane Black Metal maelstrom ever. Instead, we have a collection of great riffs and some real solid ideas buried under a thick layer of fuzz. I don't think it's worth buying on E-bay, but if you can find this to download, then get it, it's really quite good!