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One of A Handful - 93%

StainedClass95, August 5th, 2014

There aren't many black metal albums that I enjoy, but this is one of them. I actually think that this was the first black metal album I ever got into, and it might be my favorite. This might be my favorite black metal cover as well. This album has several things going for it, varied lyrics, good riffs, very good dynamics, nice melodies, excellent atmosphere, and effective vocals.

The newer variation has an improved version of the cover, though both are excellent. I'm not much for the satanic trope, but the cover Satan has a rather different look. Instead of the traditional, pot-bellied goat-man, this has more of Dracula in giant bat-form meets the demon from Dio look. The rest of the scene's not as interesting, I'm not sure what the artistic value of nudity is. I'm not prudish, but it does seem odd that it needed scores of nude people. One of them is pledging allegiance to Satan with an upside cross, kind of cliche, but the two people behind her are intriguing. A pained man clutches a dead or dying women. It's rather poignant compared to the rest. This is one of only a few black metal albums that I would consider t-shirt worthy.

I'm used to thinking of black metal as Satan and occult-obsessed, but this is pleasantly varied. Honestly, about half of this has nothing to do with either. The themes are dark, but that's to be expected for extreme metal in general. I don't care much for the stuff about the wolves, but it's not terrible. I find the one about Dracula interesting, both as it relates to their depiction of Satan on the cover, and from a historical perspective. I'm a history buff, so it appeals to one of my primary interests. The guitar riffing is pretty good when they chose to go for that approach. The one on Materialized In Stone has a good groove, and would make Celtic Frost very proud. The melodies on this album do however predominate. They are very good, but if you don't enjoy guitar melodies or need heavy riffs to dominate, then this likely isn't for you. The one that resides on the first song is probably my favorite, but they're all very good. The vocals are quite good, raspy but emotive. His screams are often pained, rather like Maleficent after she awakens without her wings. The epics work very well here as well. The first track is a great example. There is a piano intro to kick things off, and then the first full song begins. After a couple of minutes, it slows down into a groovier, atmospheric stretch.

The atmosphere on this album is fantastic, one of the best I've ever heard. The way the melodies are formed, the moments where clean vocals are substituted in, and the dynamics give this a very dark, epic feel. A song like the title track is a perfect representation. It's slower than the surrounding songs, all in clean singing, and the melody is eeriness at her finest. In a sense, it relates to the couple I mentioned on the cover. I imagine myself as the man, holding on to my departed beloved, as Satan sprouts out of the ground with his army in tow. I feel helpless, powerless, and yet at peace all at once, a resignation that I cannot thwart that evil around me. That is that rain at the end, and the pain that the vocalist feels. I probably sound rather flowery, but that atmosphere is that evocative. As I said, I don't really listen to much of this style, but this album hits that atmosphere for me that the bigger fans go on about.

I'm not sure if the raw production aids in the atmosphere or not. It is raw, not Darkthrone raw, but rawer than Immortal's been in a long time. This album is pretty trebly, but that is how it is supposed to be in black metal. I love the guitar sound, but I hate the drum sound. It rattles next to constantly, and it just gets on my nerves. He doesn't suck, but he doesn't really seem special. His performance itself isn't aggravating. I seldom hear the bass on this album, and what I do hear is just not special.

This album is quite impressive to me. The atmosphere and music are thrilling. The songs are mostly excellent. As well as lyrically, the Wolves song is several steps below musically. It's a rather large turd in the middle of this otherwise-excellent album. That and the drum sound are the only things that really hold the score from being even higher. I would say this album is pretty much essential for fans of black metal, and I have to say any fan of other types of metal should try this as well.