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Enveloped By Hate; Enveloped By Excellence - 94%

The_Evil_Hat, September 20th, 2008

This was one of the first Raw Black metal albums I’d heard, hell, one of the first black metal albums. Upon first listening I fell in love with Vlad Tepes and on the next few listens I fell in love with Belketre. This album single-handedly caused me to dig deeper into the world of black metal and without it I may not have discovered many of my favorite bands. Shortly after falling in love with it I wrote this review. Months have passed and my opinion has changed. While I still adore this split I am hesitant to rate it quite as high as I once did. I feel that the original review was quite good and described the sound accurately so I’m not going to change it. Instead, I’m going to add in a second ‘final notes’ section at the end which will detail any changes that you may find upon your umpteenth listen of this masterpiece.

This split is quite possibly the best raw black metal album ever created. Both bands are completely on top of their genre, and each band produces what is clearly their best work. Both bands are incredible, and this album is a true black metal masterpiece.

While both bands play raw black metal, their sounds are completely different. Neither outshines the other (although I prefer Vlad Tepes) and this split is just about as close to perfection as you can go in the black metal world.

VLAD TEPES

The Vlad Tepes side of this split is nothing short of extraordinary. It consists of eight tracks, all of which are very good. The only one that isn’t of such a high caliber is the thirty second Dans Norte Chute.

When I first got this split I wasn’t too sure what to expect. My experiences with raw black metal had been limited to only a handful of bands, and I’d heard countless rumors of atrocious production and plain out awfulness with regards to the LLN.

The first track on this album shattered all of my expectations. Vladmir’s March is an incredible song. It isn’t aggressive (although there is no shortage of that in the later parts of the album) but it is incredibly melodic and atmospheric. It feels as if it is time to march and head towards the enemy, eagerly awaiting the time when you can rip their limbs from their bodies.

This image is rather apt, as the next few songs are more related to flat out melees and frenzied killings rather than a somewhat somber march. While never loosing their focus or descending into self parody (What? I never said anything about Marduk!), they manage to be extremely aggressive, while retaining their melodic edge.

When it comes to songwriting Vlad Tepes has no equal in black metal, as far as I am concerned. Their riffs are melodic, aggressive and incredibly memorable. They don’t crush you with dozens of riffs, but they no when to switch it up to avoid boredom. Their riffs sound very Rock influenced, but don’t worry, this is a far cry from the abomination that is Black N’ Roll.

The production here is far better than on any of their other albums (Except for maybe their split with Torgeist). Every instrument is audible, including the bass (although it never does too much). There is no wall of static preventing you from hearing the songs, and the recorder sounds like it is actually in the same room as the band playing.

The vocals are fairly generic, but they fit the album. They are fairly understandable in a few songs, although the lyrics don’t appear to be too special. The guitars consist primarily of tremolo riffing and power chords, but it comes off great. They never get old or loose their melodic edge. The bass never does anything of too much interest with the exception of the intro to Vladmir’s March. The drums are very simple, but they fit the music and are fun to listen to. In the end, it’s much better to have simple and enjoyable drums than 200 BPM blasting all the time. Speaking of BPM, this never gets particularly fast. It usually stays in the mid tempo range, although there are a few faster and a few slower parts to add variety.

In short, this is a truly incredible piece of black metal. On its own, it’s already in the running for best black metal album I’ve ever heard. While listening to it straight through will yield the best experience, picking and choosing tracks is more than enough to show this band’s genius. The standout tracks are: In Holocaust to the Natural Darkness, Vladmir’s March, Drink to the Poetry of Celtic Discipline (twelve minutes long, and it never gets old) and Diabolical Reaps. The score for Vlad Tepes’ side is a 98.

BELKETRE

Belketre are quite different from their rock influenced counterparts. They play a far more chaotic, atmospheric and aggressive style of black metal. Their side of the split took a bit longer to sink in, but as of now I consider it almost as good as the Vlad Tepes side.

Their production is far worse and muddier than their counterpart’s production (Although, it is still better than the production on their other works). The production, while raw, is still fairly audible. You can’t make out every instrument – but you’re not supposed to. What the band wants you to hear, you hear.

Belketre creates atmosphere, quite a bit of it in fact. It isn’t the same kind of atmosphere that a suicidal black metal band (like Xasthur or Leviathan) would create. This atmosphere isn’t sorrowful or mourning, not in the least. Instead, it is hateful. The exception to this is the song Night of Sadness as it manages to combine both moods.

In between many of the tracks there are interlude type songs. These usually consist of a slow riff (or two) that lingers over a few minutes. In addition, some of them contain weird growls or vocal effects. Instead of lessening the tension, these increase it. As they pass by, you can’t help wondering how much time is left before the next assault begins. The only exception to this is the outro. It consists of wildly shifting effect altered vocals for a little over a minute. While it was supposed to come off as strange and menacing it just sounds somewhat silly, which is certainly not what the band was intending.

The vocalist shouts and shrieks over the music quite frequently. While his technique is no different than quite a few other black metal singers, his effect if far greater than most of them. He sounds hateful but not inhuman. Instead, he sounds like the most twisted and crazed human you will ever meet.

Their guitars are more like razors than those of their counterparts, constantly assaulting you as they envelope you in their chaotic mist. Their sound is enveloping, but not substantial. Like mist they move all around you and fill you with fear and terror - right up until they move in for the kill, that is.

Their drums resort to blasting and speed far more than those of their counterpart, but it fits the chaotic atmosphere perfectly. Also, unlike many bands, they know when to slow it down and stop blasting for a bit. The bass is utterly inaudible.

The songwriting is almost as good as their counterparts. They mix assaulting and incredibly aggressive parts with slower more methodical parts, with both balancing out the other.

The Belketre side of the split is a great black metal release, and is quite clearly the equal of the other side. Unlike the Vlad Tepes side, this is clearly meant to be listened to straight through. While you can skip around to some degree, a good portion of the experience will be lost. The standout tracks are: Those of our Blood, A Day Will Dawn, and Night of Sadness. Overall, this side of the split earns a 96.

OVERALL

Overall, this is an incredibly solid split album. Both sides are of incredible caliber, and this album is simply a must by for any fans of raw black metal. I prefer the Vlad Tepes side, but they are so close in quality that a favorite simply comes down to preference.

----Final Notes----

This album is truly incredible, but my opinions have shifted a bit. I no longer feel that the Vlad Tepes side is superior to the Belketre side. While it possesses great songs I feel that upon extensive listening a few of the tracks get slightly predictable and loose some of their power. This drags down the score a little. In addition, once you’ve heard the Vlad Tepes side a few times, that’s all there is to it. The same cannot be said for the Belketre side which contains countless small details that you’re bound to miss on your first – or your tenth – listen and keeps growing on you listen after listen. As such the amended scores for each side would be:
Vlad Tepes – 92
Belketre – 96