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Drumbots, roll out! - 57%

iamntbatman, June 26th, 2013

The Priest's Command documents both of Faustcoven's demos as well as some additional rehearsal material. While usually these sorts of demo compilations make for either a convenient package to pick up a band's non-album material or, for the chronologically inclined, a nice way to introduce themselves to the band before the albums proper, the material here doesn't quite live up to the higher standard of the band's full-lengths. Hampered by unflattering production and a really shitty drum machine, Norway's black/doom answer to Barathrum show that, even in the modern era of digital production, it's quite possible to have a wide gulf of quality between demo material and properly recorded music.

Kicking off with the Satanic Doom demo, as soon as the suitable and creepy intro track finishes, you'll hear what I mean. Fuck, that drum machine is awful? It's clearly hand-programmed as a variety of beats are used, but they're also clearly programmed by a guy who doesn't know a whole hell of a lot about playing drums. Rather than usual (and appropriate) loops, you get weird little spurts of cymbals and strange drum patterns. It does clearly follow the music and I feel like care was taken to have the drum parts mesh appropriately with the riff they're supporting, but it just sounds so amateur. Not to mention the godawful drum samples. If this was from 1992 or something I'd be much, much more forgiving but there's not much excuse for it in 2002.

The riffing is also sort of haphazard, with not much attention really paid to how one riff flows into the next. As a result, the songs are really just unmemorable slideshows, with the Venom cover sticking out like a sore thumb due to its catchy riffs and vocal lines. The guitar tone is very thin and buzzy, which sounds alright for the tremolo riffs but otherwise is much too weak for the doomy, mid-paced black metal on display the majority of the time. Gunnar's vocals are either multitracked or so heavily processed they may as well be, a trademark of demo-stage bands who aren't yet confident enough about their abilities to let them come out more naturally, or demo-stage production that thinks you need oodles of effects of black metal vocals before they'll sound evil enough.

Songs from the second demo suffer literally the exact same production as the first, so at least it can be said that there's no awkward shift in recording quality as there often is on these compilations. To their credit, Gunnar has advanced quite a bit both as a riff-writer and drum programmer. Unfortunately he uses the same shitty drum samples this time around, but the patterns actually sound appropriately metal, with double bass and thrashy beats and everything. His riffs on this material are also better thought out, from the thrashy goodness of “Under the Pagan Hammer” to the doomy crawl of “Blasphemer's Eulogy”. The Darkthrone cover is especially apt, as even the slower stuff on this demo has a strong similarity to the more Celtic Frost-ish stuff on Darkthrone's early black metal albums. While the songs are definitely taking a step in the right direction at this point, the shoddy production still puts a hurting on this material.

Next we get some rehearsal material covering a number of tunes for the band's upcoming debut full-length. The production is quite similar again, notably the guitar tone and vocals, but on this set of songs there's some clearly audible bass playing some interesting melodic counters to the guitar riffs, which again acts as an improvement over previous material. Everything just feels tired and sleepy though, with a lackadaisical feel to the playing that cripples the impact of riffs. Listen to the fast part of “Oldschool War” and see how this rehearsal version of the song is just miles behind the Halo of Burning Wings version.

To be frank, there's not a lot about this compilation that's really all that great or worthwhile. The really early songs are better forgotten, while much of the better material on this release wound up on their debut album anyway with much improved presentation, especially regarding the revelatory switch to live drums. The two covers are maybe worth hearing, but for the mildly curious you can probably just dig those up on YouTube somewhere. I would recommend this to die-hard Faustcoven fans only, though completionists will want to know that this is missing the Pentagram cover and the final original track from the second demo. Newcomers to the band will be much better served heading directly to the first album, which includes better versions of this compilation's best songs and is a more cohesive experience from start to finish.