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Rebirth of the Fog - 80%

Roffle_the_Thrashard, March 13th, 2017

As the second wave of black metal in northern Europe was starting to slowly fade a few musical releases appeared on its lowering horizon and sent the second wave of black metal into a prolonged ending. One of these releases was the first demo from Poland’s Sauron. Entitled The Baltic Fog, it captured the band in their earlier, formative years, and was then put on the back shelf of their career by four full length releases. However, The Baltic Fog has now been “remastered” and is experiencing a rebirth of sorts in a full length form from Sauron and remasterer, Haldor Grunberg.

For a remastering job, Grunberg has done a decent amount of work to the tracks of The Baltic Fog to make them “better” than the originals, however not a whole lot has been done in that regard. I’d have to that the most notable of these alterations has been to the tone of the instruments, especially the guitars. The six stringers on The Baltic Fog now have a more crunchy sound to them than the original buzz and fuzz of the 1995 demo. Although the difference in tone is easy make out, this didn’t do much good or bad for the record. For example, harmonization of the guitars in the title track and “Hellish Requiem” still are able to be made out well, with about the same amount of clarity. The drums, vocals, and bass guitar seem to unaltered in tonal quality, and are merely a little louder in the mix with the guitars so that they can be heard better. Although a subtle move on Grunberg’s part this was crucial to providing a better release for Sauron’s listeners. When all of these changes were made the album sounded considerably better.

I would definitely say that the production lends well to the majority of The Baltic Fog although, it’s not perfect for the music by any stretch. One aspect that I’ve noticed across The Baltic Fog is the unique musical relationship between the guitars and bass. Bassists are usually the unsung heroes of heavy metal and this is especially true within the world of black metal, and to see it stand out in the overall tone of the album was good enough. But to hear the bass guitar play different melodies than the guitar and make it work on a black metal record really sealed the deal for me on this one. Both “Hellish Requiem” and “The Baltic Fog” and some parts of “In the Shadow Svantevit” really show bassist and vocalist Fritz von Shrapnel taking his own path for the music.

It was very refreshing to listen to a black metal album that wasn’t ten minute track after ten minute track and Sauron knows how to keep a listener, well, listening. The lack of boredom from song length was strong with The Baltic Fog. Also refreshing was the abundance of riffs and passages that weren’t blast beats. If a band plays too many of them on an album (or in some cases their whole damn career), it just takes away from their power and makes them seem dull. Sauron uses them here but sparingly and it enhances their intensity by quite a bit. However, there isn’t too much intensity in range of note choice, and the riffing is simplistic in parts of many of the tracks. Less is more is only good to an extent, and songs like “Klasztor” and “Grave” are guilty of being a bit underwhelming. I would have also enjoyed more keyboard and synth parts on the album as well and what was done on the beginning of “Klasztor” was quite intriguing. I find too many keyboards to be a bigger issue than not enough; however they could have easily spiced up this album.

When it comes down to it however, I can’t really go back in time to 1995 and tell Fritz von Shrapnel and the gang to add more keyboards and throw in some more “creative” riffing. I am still satisfied with The Baltic Fog and how it came full circle as a re-release. It’s not quite on par with black metal legends such as Transilvanian Hunger and Filosofem, and I think that it barely got my rating as an eight out of ten, but its music does stand as a marker as part of the last gasp of a turbulent, frost-bitten era and is an album that I could return to without much hesitation. Grunberg did a fine job on the production, all band members played their wonderfully cold hearts out, the music itself was pleasing for the most part, and the overall mood was enchanting. I can see the mist and fog, rolling over the ice-capped mountains.