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Von was always something of a mystery. This band seemingly appeared out of nowhere, issued a limited amount of material, and then vanished into nothingness. Information was always somewhat foggy, as the 1992 self-released Satanic Blood demo was often cited as having been released in 1988, for some reason. Odd how a matter of a few years would have changed the impression of this recording, since that may have meant quite a bit more in some sense. Still, for what it is, this demo is quite worthy of some amount of praise.
My first experience with anything Von-related came when I acquired the first Dark Funeral full-length, The Secrets of the Black Arts, and heard their cover of "Satanic Blood". I'd heard the band name before but only after this had I decided to keep an eye out for their demo. Eventually, I found myself in Stockholm and discovered a copy of the demo on CD (coincidentally, through Blackmoon's record label), and picked it up. While it didn't impress me very much, it still satisfied my hunger for more material of this ilk.
While originally released as a cassette demo, the sound quality is pretty good, yet still very raw. The music is very simplistic and primitive. To say that it is minimalist would be a huge understatement, as there appears to have been very little thought regarding the songwriting. The songs just blast forth, with usually one speed, and very limited variation in riffing or vocal patterns. In some sense, Satanic Blood can be seen as the precursor to Transilvanian Hunger, using a similar riffing style and mentality as it relates to the drumming. The first four songs are all very straightforward and epitomize this sound. With the exception of one or two brief sections (the eerie riff at the beginning of "Watain", for example), it's all quite similar in feel and nearly puts the listener into a trance. The music actually comes off as somewhat ritualistic. The vocals are more like chants to some unseen darkness beyond.
The atmosphere takes on an even blacker tone, with the arrival of "Veadtuck". The pace is much slower, giving the riffs a chance to breathe and to take on more of a life of their own. The feeling conveyed is dark and almost mournful, at times. It is one of the few times when the band allows the listener to experience a different aspect of their songwriting, though this novelty may also be part of the reason that it stands out.
The rest of the songs then follow the pattern established by the first half of the demo. They feature tremolo riffs accompanied by blasting drums and deep vocals that have no sense of melody. The lead solos are also tremolo-picked and are among the highlights of the entire recording. One of the primary complaints from some critics is that all of the songs sound alike, and this is not really the case. Upon first listen, it may be an understandable conclusion, but still not accurate. A few listens will easily reveal the differences between the various riffs and each song, surprisingly enough, does possess its own identity.
Satanic Blood is not a release that will really leave you in awe. However, if you are looking for raw, minimalist Black Metal to suit your candlelight rituals, this definitely belongs on the list.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com