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On Expiry's Means - 86%

TheStormIRide, May 26th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Saturnal Records

On Death’s Wings is the third full length album from the Finnish black metal act Blood Red Fog. Formed in 2004, Blood Red Fog’s sound has always been steeped in the style of Finnish compatriots, such as Saturnian Mist and Cosmic Church (which, by the way, both sported Blood Red Fog members at some part), but there has always been this eerie and depressive air to their music, which is directly attributable to the shrieking vocals of founder B.R.F. Though this is the band’s third full length release, it was actually recorded between 2008 and 2009, prior to the band’s sophomore album, Harvest, with finishing touches recorded in 2012 and 2014.

This album sees Blood Red Fog continuing their tradition of mid-tempo black metal, with five tracks clocking in at thirty six minutes. Although the band's sound is decidedly Finnish in style, Blood Red Fog owes a lot of their sound to being influenced by the likes of Burzum, Mütiilation and Drudkh. Amidst the trem riffing and rather raw and gruff exterior, there is a fair amount of melody, albeit the stark kind. Much like the forerunners of depressive black metal, Blood Red Fog's music weaves a rather dismal web of minor keys and tortured vocals with some good old fashioned black metal. On Death's Wings is a rather depressing affair, yet underneath is cobweb-strewn exterior lies a trance inducing quality.

Starting off in a rather depressing tone, “Blazing Star” warms up your stereo with a mix of slower paced, trebly melodic lines and high pitched tortured screams. Even when things pick up, with some slightly faster second wave worshiping trem riffing and fast paced drumming, it still has an air of abject hopelessness and despair. Blood Red Fog mixes these slower, minor key segments with the faster riffing throughout the album. The alternating tempos are actually quite captivating, like the trance inducing, cyclical trem riffing during “Circle of Resurrection” or the slow paced trudging at the beginning of “Black Hole Soul”. The slower, more depressive moments and the fast paced, cyclical trem riffs build off each other and help to continuously drag your senses through the dismal paces.

The drum production is a little weak compared to the strong bass and guitar sound, as the double bass sounds extremely muffled and the cymbals (crash aside) get lost in the grainy mix. I know this is black metal, and Blood Red Fog's style, especially, usually keep to the realm of lo-fidelity, but a stronger production could give this album the extra kick it needs. This is not a complaint on my end, but the vocals take a little getting used to and could probably turn a few people off. B.R.F.'s vocals consist of higher pitched wails, tortuous screams and agonized wails, similar to early Burzum. The vocals fit with the dismal tones, but I can see how they might not click with some people.

When Blood Red Fog is on fire, the music is trance-inducing, like the entirety of “Liberation”, the pacing, ten minute centerpiece of On Death's Wings. With a wellspring of mid-tempo, dismal tunes, Blood Red Fog's third album is one of their best to date. Combining the depressive likeness of Mütiilation and Burzum with the Finnish sensibilities Saturnian Mist and Cosmic Church, On Death's Wings is a worthy addition to any black metal collection.

Written for The Metal Observer.