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Cold atmosphere with decent production - 84%

limbonic_art666, July 22nd, 2011

Imagine yourself in the middle of an incredibly cold and bitter winter in Finland. You were riding your sled with wolves in a very isolated part of the country while all of a sudden you get caught in one of the most terrible blizzards you have ever experienced. In the far horizon, between the mist and frost, you can spot a small shack. Desperate for shelter, you command your pack of wolves to head for that direction, regardless of what you may encounter in this isolated wasteland you have come across. As you desperately gasp for air and your pack of wolves become tired; you can faintly hear a melody coming from the shack you spotted, this sound is Catamenia's "Halls of Frozen North".

Catamenia are a Finnish melodic black metal band that has been around since 1995. They have been releasing a lot of albums since they formed, releasing an album at least once every two years, having a total of eight full-length albums and a live DVD. The albums have slowly been changing their sound into a progressively worse band, changing several of the elements that made their music interesting for more varied approaches to music. This is album is where it all started, with only 2 demos they finally decided to record their first full-length in 1997, two years after forming. The line-up of the band has also significantly changed, they had a different vocalist and a keyboard player. This also turned out to be one of their best as well.

Originally written for sputnikmusic
From the opener the listener can notice how the rest of the album will follow, it begins with a very fast but acoustic intro which follows the iciness given by the keyboard arrangements. The vocals are high pitched, fast, and hard to decipher which fits well with the shivering aura of the record. The vocals are also the main focus of the songs, taking most of the listeners attention for the most part of the songs. As mentioned before, the keyboards really add to the atmosphere of the album and also serve as a break in between the songs. The album is dynamic in the sense that it majestically shifts from the harsh verses into the softer melodic arrangements set by the keyboards. This makes it a lot more accessible to outsiders although the vocals are still quite strong, and they are the primary focus of the songs. The album is 46 minutes long, spread into 14 songs that are shorter than average ranging at about 3 minutes each, making them short and sweet, each having their own charm. However, some may prefer longer songs even if they have repetitive elements.

One of the most important highlights is the tempo variety mentioned earlier, which makes the album much more enjoyable and unique. The album may also appeal to fans of true black metal even with the presence of melodic keyboards and riffs since the vocals are still quite raw and harsh. The drumming department is also quite splendid, being well heard during all of the songs, and being second loudest element next to the vocals. Most songs have a fair share of blast-beats during the faster portions of the songs, which are perfectly balanced out by the softer melodic parts. One of the most memorable moments for the guitar are beautifully composed solos in "Child of Sunset" and "Primea Yo", but sadly the guitars fail to stand out for most of the rest of the album. Most of the time they are not really heard or even noticed, but this does not make the album any worse at all, since it does shine in a few instances here and there.

"Dreams of Winterland" is a fantastic opener, all of the instruments(except for guitars) can be well-heard and distinguished. Particularly the vocals get to show the raw in them, they keyboards enhance the frigid atmosphere, and the drumming keeps up to the pace of the songs. The song is mid-paced compared to the other ones on the album but shows what the album is all about. "Into Infernal" begins a lot more slowly but then quickly picks up the speed making it one of the faster songs. "Halls of Frozen North" is one of the highlights, beginning with an interesting arrangement of keyboards, and shifting between harsh verses and slower, more enjoyable icy keyboards. "Forest Enthroned" begins with a soft keyboard arrangement, then the drums and vocals pick up from there, fitting into the faster songs, but also similar to the previous due to shifting into slower parts. "Land of The Autumn Winds" starts with one of the best intros ever, but it ends abruptly and becomes pretty similar to the other songs. If they had kept he same pace as the first part it would have been an overall much
better song, but it at least stands out because of said intro.

Overall this is one of Catamenia's best albums and also one of my personal favorite in the genre of melodic black metal. This album deserves much more attention than it has received, and is much better quality than this band's latest works. This album is recommended for anyone into the more melodic side of extreme metal, but also worth checking out for those into black metal due to its darker elements.

Recommended songs:
Dreams of Winterland
Burning Aura
Halls of Frozen North
Land of The Autumn Winds
Song of the Nightbird

Peaceful black metal - Is that an oxymoron? - 75%

MediocreGuitarist123, February 21st, 2011

Catamenia is a very obscure melodic black metal band, so much that they feel free to communicate with other fans online on sites like YouTube and Facebook. I’ve sort of felt that Catamenia has been an underrated band, though the same can be said for pretty much any melodic black metal band, unless it’s Dimmu Borgir or Emperor, of course.

Halls of Frozen North has a very nature-like and wintery feel, which would be implemented in later albums until Winternight Tragedies. Even with the moderately aggressive playing, the atmosphere still has a peaceful feeling that you want to relax to rather than bang your head to.

The guitars are the driving force of the album, providing lovely melodies and catchy riffs. The keyboards also play a strong role in the sound, helping create the atmosphere with its ambience and wintery sound effects. The bass is fairly audible in the mix and there are some pretty good bass-lines and the drum work is very consistent and provides a solid skeleton for the music. Mika Tönning’s vocals, for me, are average at best; no more impressive than an average black metal vocalist. At times, though, he can pull off some death growls and even an Abbath-like croak, but they happen at an occasion, though. There are some moments that feel a bit tiring, but the musicianship is still solid overall.

There are some things that I don’t like about Halls of Frozen North. All of the songs average at 2-3 minutes, which is not too much of a problem. However, there are 14 tracks on the album, with some tracks feeling like filler. I felt that Catamenia could have removed several of the tracks and made it around 30-35 minutes because that’s what you want when you want a more straightforward album.

Catamenia’s Halls of Frozen North isn’t really special beyond a 75%. It’s a good start for Catamenia, but occasional tired riffs and filler sort of hurt the album. Still, it’s at least worthy of a listen for people into the melodic/symphonic forms of black metal.

CoB black metal style - 85%

Arsenicum, July 2nd, 2007

Halls of Frozen north is certainly an enjoyable record to listen to. Sure it's not original, I wouldn't even call it black metal, but hey. The songs on this record are extremely catchy and in your face, but a littlebit too happy sounding to be classified as black metal. It's more like Children of Bodom meets Manegarm in my opinion. The vocals are the strongest point of Catamenia, catchy screams without the sound of a pig that's being castrated, as is the case with many sub-par black metal bands.

I personally never look at the way the words are pronounced in black metal, but with Catamenia, I will have to make an exception to that. For example, if you listen to the track " Into Infernal" without holding the lyrics in your hand, you just can't stop wondering what the hell the singer is shouting in the oh so catchy chorus. If I take a look at the lyrics and listen closely, I just have to conclude that the pronouncing of the words is just awful. Apart from the soggy pronouncing, Into Infernal is still my favourite track on this album as the screams are so damn catchy.

Next to the already mentioned screams, the guitars do their job but the most melodies come from the ever so present keyboard. Only instrument that never seems to draw my attention are the drums. Not that the drums are bad, but they don't add power to the music, and are just sounding weak and very thin.

Apart from those few negative points on this record, it is a very sollid performance. If you're into true black metal, Catamenia will certainly NOT be your cup of tea. But if you happen to appreciate catchy melodic black metal, give Catamenia a chance and they won't let you down.

Twilight In My Kingdom Cold - 86%

OzzyApu, June 14th, 2007

Who knew Immortal could be beaten on the frostbitten scale? Catamenia is pretty much the epitome of ice-cold black metal, playing a unique form of the genre with precision and themes of winter, nature, and darkness. Their style strays from the typically dreadful production and constant riffage most bands claim time and time again. It may be hard to understand, but these Finns instead opt for a tight, melodic black metal sound that actually drifts into melodic death metal territory on occasion – vocally and musically. While it may remain questionable between vocalists, longtime (now former) vocalist Mika Tönning shares a distinct voice with Eternal Tears of Sorrow’s Altti Veteläinen. Both men hold the title for throaty shrieks and, in short instances for Mika, cavernous, bellowing growls (“Burning Aura” and “Dreams of Winterland” for example).

When I first heard this record, I was amazed at the actual effort the group endured in refining their sound as best as their budget and equipment at hand enabled them. At a decent listening volume, the lead guitar is completely audible, the rhythm guitar (although descending in the mix of instruments, except on “Pimeä Yö”) hangs about , and our delightful battery (drums) stays consistent throughout each song, remaining quite apparent and hallowed compared to most of the genre’s drumming. Thank Timo Lehtinen for his bass duties, which are clear at certain moments like in the “Awake In Dark,” “Forest Enthroned,” and “Pimeä Yö,” but otherwise supporting the tone by filling gaps and creating a deeper atmosphere.

Likewise, Catamenia’s creates a rather chilling atmosphere through keyboard exploitation and, if best put, by “abusing” the lead guitar. The keyboards surely do not take all the credit for any song, but when I mention “abusing” the lead guitar, I mean that while many bands tend to jot a riff down as a plain riff, Riku Hopeakoski’s riffs are pretty much what make the tracks sound the way they do. As messed up as that may seem, just ponder: people recognize Catamenia’s library solely because of the riffs laid down by Riku – everything else (vocals, keyboard, drumming) supports these riffs and, when the opportunity strikes, solos. Infact, solos aren’t even abundant or as thoroughly memorable as the melody throughout the rest of its respective track. Proof of this lolls seminal tracks like “Dreams of Winterland,” “Forest Enthroned,” “Song of the Nightbird,” “Child of Sunset,” and undeniably the finest track on here, “Pimeä Yö.”

For a debut, the band politely enlisted 14 tracks, though the catch was that they weren’t going to be very long. The album does clock nearly 47 minutes, though the trip seems shorter. Due to track lengths (of which only “Pimeä Yö” exceeds 4 minutes), every song undoubtly ends too quickly. The band fixed this problem with later releases, but somehow this album passes with this procedure, as most of the songs carry an unforgettable tune. Such a remarkable melody is perfected through keyboard exercise, which thankfully isn’t abused and only takes over on certain tracks that needed to fit the theme and atmosphere, such as “Freezing Winds of North” and “Dreams of Winterland.” Unsurprised, acoustics are present as well, yet they still sound distinct in black metal, particularly since the band plays a very dissimilar style.

By scanning their album covers, anyone with eyes and a brain that works grasps the fact that this band is obsessed with wolves. Everyone wants a wolf it knew not to attack its master, just like good black metal. That’s it folks, this album fulfills that promise. It will never attack you and will trail by your side, accompanying every adventure you undertake. Through the dark, desolate, damn freezing northern abyss to the sandy, sun scorched beaches of Italy where woman glisten and wait for men like us to sweep them off their towels, this album will never ditch you. C’mon guys, not even Abbath is capable of that.

Simple and to the Point - 91%

ict1523, March 24th, 2007

This album introduced me to Catamenia, and I must say I liked and still like this album quite a bit. Its a very pleasant album to listen to even now, several months after I first got it. It is a different style from today's Catamenia, it is much more raw, it is much more black metal, and has a much more wintry atmosphere, and these are all things that really make this album shine even if other things like the production and overall songwriting aren't as great.

The band here was just getting started so this nonetheless is a great start. The songs on this album are generally short, but there are 14 tracks, which puts the album at a good length. A lot of the songs start off with a bit of acoustic guitar, and you could even hear the frigid howling winds on the beginning of "Freezing Winds of North". The songs are all generally mid to fast paced, Catamenia really doesn't have any really slow or really fast songs. The instruments are pretty great, though at times the guitar seems to be in the background because of the loud synths and keyboards, but they do sound beautiful and add a ton of atmosphere. The vocals are very good, a raspy scream which goes very well with the production and overall sound of the album.

Some highlight tracks are "Dreams of Wonderland" with its wonderful acoustic beginning quickly exploding with a loud scream. "Into Infernal" has another acoustic but less doomy beginning which is also great. "Freezing Winds of North" has a great melody with catchy riffs, and is one of the faster paced songs, and is very nice throughout. "Pimea Yo" is also a good song with a nice acoustic beginning with acoustic guitars popping up here and there throughout the song. It is less melodic, but not too heavy.

As a whole, the songs on this album are very similar, but they are also very catchy and provide an amazing atmosphere, the sound of the album MAKES you picture yourself in beautiful north Scandinavian areas. Catamenia's sound has evolved a lot over the years, but I myself liked this more black influenced Catamenia a lot and maybe even more than their current, more commercial sound.

frustrating... - 68%

cweed, May 4th, 2006

Personally, I believe this album could have been much better than it was. For one, it had all the right ingredients for a good melodic black metal album- acoustic passages, icy atmospheric keyboards, memorable melodies, even the production quality is pretty decent. However, after the first track (which is by far the best song on the album), the album becomes way too repititious and long (the actual length of the CD is fine, but 14 tracks is a bit much, and because some songs arent as good as others, it waters down the album). The other major problem that I have with this album is the drumming by Toni Tervo. It's OK if a black metal drummer isn't blasting the whole time (especially in melodic black metal), but there are many parts on the album that could use a good blast beat to ratchet up the instensity, and Tervo simply does not take it to the next level when needed. On top of that, the only instrument i was satisfied with on this album was the keyboards, as it seems that they probably wrote most of the melodies for the songs on a keyboard first. I suppose the last minor complaint I have is that there are no fast or slow songs, every song is pretty mid-tempo, which gets kind of old, and some of the riffs on many of the songs can come off as pretty bland or just plain boring..
Thus far, it seems like I hate this album. I don't, as it does have some good aspects to it- as far as atmospherics go, Catamenia are fairly good at capturing the mood they're trying to convey in their music, and from time to time they do mix it up with slightly different vocal approaches, acoustic guitars, etc.
This album was frustrating because it had potential, but ultimately I felt that the band could have done better. This is the only Catamenia album I've heard, and because it's their first release, I can hope for improvement when I listen their to their later work.

Catamenia - "Halls Of Frozen North" - 100%

Purp, August 1st, 2004

This is one of the best products in my cd collection. Catamenia's "Halls Of Frozen North" will always be one of my favourite black metal albums. And I'll tell you why;

When you first turn this one into the cd player you'll hear the first track "Dreams of Winterland". This one sets the atmosphere for the rest of the album. Mostly because the cold screams from the throat of Mika Tönning, but also because of the keyboards. Some bands seems to use way to much keyboards, but Catamenia have found a way to make it sound perfect. This fits very good with the crystalclear production.

The drums are also beeing used in a very good way. They do use blastbeats, but they don't lay all their power on blastbeats. Instead they've parts in a few songs there it's often an easier tempo. This is someting that I'm a big fan of. They've also slow beginnings in some songs with beautiful guitars and keyboards. For exemple in the song "Into Infernal".

How can I end a review about such a great album like "Halls of Frozen North"? Well, it's certainly not easy but it has to be done. This is an album that fans in the lines of Immortal and fans of black metal with clear production should check out!
You won't be disappointed.