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A Black Metal Cornerstone - 99%

PutridWind, November 27th, 2008

Transilvanian Hunger, one of the most cited works in the black metal genre. The sound on the album is without a doubt one of the most replicated in black metal, along with Burzums black metal albums. Anyone interested at all in the genre would do well to give this album a thorough listen for it has influenced many bands, though the sound and atmosphere has never been fully replicated to sound quite as good as the original.

The formula of this album is very simple, and also very effective. This is one of the finest examples of riff based black metal. Songs feature a very small amount of riffs, usually two main riffs (verse and chorus) and sometimes a bridge or middle section riff. The riffs don't vary, they aren't expanded upon and they are just repeated ad infinitum. With such a simple formula I think it is safe to say that the success and effectiveness of this album are not derived from the song structures nor the song writing, but rather from the riffs themselves. The repetition is an essential factor to the album, but without the excellent riffs we would not have the classic that Transilvanian Hunger is.

The riffs are perfectly written, usually extremely simple in nature. The whole albums centers around simplicity. There is never an unexpected moment (perhaps the ending of Over Fjell Og Gjennom Turner is a little abrupt) and all the songs follow the same formula. Mid to fast paced tempo, a simplistic blast beat and some riffing over the top. The riffs are mainly tremolo picked diads (two note chords) and usually change about once a measure, in other words nothing really amazing. Except that the actual result is amazing. I don't think I could find a better riff than the main theme of Transilvanian Hunger, a riff that is so simple it is amazing how well it works. The riff basically does a harmony on one pedal note (the lower note) and then for the second half of the riff switches the pedal note, giving the harmony a dark twist that is ingenious in its simplicity,

The drumming is something that should be noted as well. It is perfectly in the pocket, and what is more it sounds extremely natural and organic. A lot of modern black metal is grossly triggered, especially the kick drum, and the authentic low and round sound of the kick is a wonderful sound in the mix of this album. The snare drum is mixed very low and meshes in with the hats and ride. Cymbals stand out to call attention to changes in riff or to mark where a riff repeats. The drumming does little more than play the same blast beat throughout most of the CD, adding more monotony and repetition to the sound, and also giving all eight songs a very cohesive sound. Vocals are similar, they sound extremely organic and raspy, probably the best performance of Nocturno Culto captured on a record. The range is pretty low, no annoying high shrieks of any sort, and once again the range is rather monotonous, not varying much in pitch.

So why does all this monotony work? Apart from the excellent riffing and vocal delivery the reason is the production. As I have already stated the album is extremely organic in sound, and is centered mostly around the mids of the frequency range, which is why I encourage you to seek out an original recording of this album. The remaster (from 2001 I think) has made the treble levels higher and has made the album sound to synthetic and electronic for my taste, which is why this actually one of the few cases where I listen to the actual CD and not mp3, because simply put, I think this is one of the few cases where listening to the original release in the format it was meant to be listened to makes a difference worth paying attention to. The production is so important to the atmosphere that it is worth getting out your cd player to listen to this one.

Put in another way, this is an atmospheric masterpiece. Not in the same way that some bands are atmospheric with the whole string ensemble orchestral sound, but because the production and sound of the album are such an integral part of it. The riffing is superb, the drumming is furiously consistent, and the vocal delivery is on par. Essential listening for all metal fans.