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Utterly essential - 98%

torn, December 8th, 2005

Ignoring a lot of the dubious, single-demo side-projects of the main LLN members, there have been some incredible releases under the LLN banner. This highly sought-after split between the controversial Vlad Tepes and the always-excellent Belketre is one of the very best LLN releases.

Vlad Tepes start the proceedings with a commendable lack of pomp or pretension, instead offering us thirty minutes of rock & roll style grimy black metal. The traditional rock influences are quite prominent in this material, more so than on other Vlad Tepes releases that I’ve heard. Some of the riffs are, in fact, positively upbeat; ‘Under The Carpathian Yoke’ could almost be danced to!

The production is, for Vlad Tepes, surprisingly good. Every part of the drum kit is audible, and guitar riffs are easily discernable. There is a strong bass presence here, so if trebly black metal isn’t your thing, this could well appeal. Of course, this is not a ‘well produced’ affair, and everything is wrapped up in a veil of grime and filth that confirms Vlad Tepe’s status as a black metal band rather than a rock band with extreme vocals.

On the subject of vocals, don’t expect anything remarkable here. If you’ve heard, say, Natterfrost, or Abbath’s earlier vocal style, then you’ll know exactly what to expect. This undeniably suits the musical style, but is disappointingly generic, especially compared to the Belketre half of this split.

Overall, then, this is my favourite Vlad Tepes material. I’ve never been a big fan, and ‘La Morte Lune’ especially did nothing but give me a headache, but this is a far better attempt all around. It’s not groundbreaking, and it’s not original, but it is a solid set of ‘black & roll’ that certainly compliments the French’s reputation for filth and perversion.

The true filth, though, and the real reason for hunting down this record, is Belketre’s half. Equally devoid of any musical theatrics, they present us with a further half hour of depraved and nihilistic audio violence. In contrast with Vlad Tepe’s more bass-orientated sound, this is a shrill, screeching affair. The buzzing guitars scythe their way through the mix, and are devoid of any bass frequencies at all. The actual bass is quite low in the mix, but is easily audible because it is the only instrument (apart from the kick drum) that actually makes any bass frequencies. The drums are slightly muffled, but this works well with the trebly nature of the production, and rounds off the very analogue sound.

I cannot praise Belketre’s vocalist enough. The hatred that he spews out is truly unmatched by anyone I’ve ever heard; Even the supremely evil Old Wainds never managed vocals quite this depraved. The lyrics are screeched out in a way that is hard to describe; they’re not mid-range yapping like Vlad Tepes, but neither are they as shrill as Behexen or Burzum. The most noticeable element of the vocal work is how human it sounds. This makes a refreshing change, and makes them all the more horrifying because they’re so ‘real.’ This is not the sound of a band trying to sound like pure evil; this is the sound of a man filled with unadulterated hate and anguish.

This compliments the music perfectly, and especially on this material, because the ‘solitude, sorrow and despair’ elements of Belketre’s self-proclaimed ‘solitude, sorrow, despair and hate’ tag are not as present in this music as in their other releases, leaving the hatred to envelope everything.

The songs are broken up by a couple of brief interludes, in which mildly distorted guitars pluck out ominous melodies, and distorted, bestial grunting reverberates around the speakers. This makes for a fantastic contrast to the ‘proper’ songs, and is a genuine contribution to the music, rather than the almost obligatory keyboard intros / interludes that a lot of bands use. The main body of songs alternates between fast drumming and screeching chords, and mid-paced ‘rock’ drum beats with Belketre’s trademark twisted melodies. Opening track ‘Guilty’ reminds me of the Belketre classic ‘The Dark Promise’, with it’s ‘rocky’ overtones and simplistic chord work. Elsewhere, ‘Night Of Sadness’ begins with some sorrowful lead work, and reminds me of my favourite Belketre song ‘Twilight Of The Black Holocaust’.

Put simply, if you’ve heard Belketre before, then you’ll know what to expect, and you should be salivating at the prospect of this. Although my absolute favourite Belketre tracks are from other releases, this is the best release overall, comprising a consistently quality set of songs, and what is probably the most fitting production they ever achieved.

If you have not heard Belketre before, then you have not heard black metal, and you need this in the same way that thrash fans need Sodom and Destruction.