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Vrag is an Australian band composed of two members, and they play black metal in a very traditional manner - almost a wholly 'reverent' fashion, without experimentation, concentrating on building primary structures here which they can later look back to in their explorations. This demo is comprised of four acts, one of which is a well thought-out, respectful cover of Mayhem's 'Deathcrush', slowed down here a little to further bleed/promote its dark atmosphere and brooding violence, but all-in-all reproduced very faithfully... the other three are originals: pieces, one would think, which are dedicated to or inspired (or which they at least seek to illustrate) directly by the emotions related in their titles: Hatred, Sorrow, and Lust. An interesting concept, and one that is rather obvious... a black metal manifesto, maybe?
'Hatred' is a raging slice of simple power chord manipulation and crashing drums, coated as all these songs are in a vitriolic sheen of distortion, a cloud of sable... starting off at a fast pace, slashing and ripping like prime Gorgoroth, and then later slowing to a doom crawl for a moment before returning to its initial idea(s). I like the shadowed, hollow guitar tones here, the effect of both the overdrive used and the raw production. The lyrics are probably the best part, however: to wit, the lines: 'Grind humanity to powder, filter it through time and pain, drain all reason and compassion - passion and all hope in vain.' A motto for misanthropists? These lines and the others are delivered in a familiar black metal snarl or groaning shout, as you would expect, in a way that really doesn't offer anything new to my ears, but it doesn't take anything away from the music either. Like I said above... perfectly traditional, perfectly complementary.
'Sorrow' is a more enthralling conception mainly because it is all acoustic guitar, and utilizes much more instrumental dynamics/variation than the electric pieces, even though it is really only centered around one musical theme - the repetition of which is bridged by clear, strong, full strumming of basic chord progressions.
The last song, then, is 'Lust', and one which shows a little more variation in theme and ideas than the two earlier tracks - but just barely so. Throughout the song Vrag keep a relaxed, mid-paced approach, crunching and bearing down hard on power chords for an effect that is almost similar to early Samael... throughout this tenebrous affair the buzzing guitars never deviate too far from their native melodies, the structure of this song, and the statement-and-repetition form of this exercise in primal theory. Once again, I think the lyrics are the best part: 'Shameless to invoke the Lord both in bed and prayer' and 'The Crystal Ship departs for hell through gates of skin and hair/De-con-struction Of moral codes and men' are two favorite segments. The vocals in the second half of the song are filtered through a demonic 'shifting' effect, and this further lends credence to the unholy atmosphere. As the title should tell you, this is a wolfpaean to the 'natural' animal instincts and, at the same time, a praising of soulless/blasphemous/transcendent sexuality. Or, at least, so it seems to me.
Ultimately, this demo is not really anything terribly out of the ordinary, as I have related already, but I also don't believe Vrag is really trying to be so at this point anyway. A good start, a solid foundation to build on, and a tape that would be welcome in the hands of fans of early-'90s/late-'80s protypical black metal: Bathory, Darkthrone, the aforementioned first Mayhem, etc. Let's see where Vrag goes in the future, and what they come up with.