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Epic, massive and monumental - 90%

Felix 1666, June 3rd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Whirlwind Records

In terms of this phenomenal music called heavy metal, the use of keyboards is always questionable. This applies in particular to the extreme forms of the genre. Be that as it may, one thing cannot be denied: Gene Simmons, lead vocalist and bass player of Kiss, is clueless when it comes to extreme metal. Apart from that, he holds the view that playing keyboards just looks unattractive. And he should know because he also cannot be described as attractive. But any discussion about the optic appearance of keyboards is pointless. The determining factor is their involvement in the sound. With regard to Slechtvalk, we can notice that the keyboards are not just an additional feature of minor importance. Quite the opposite, they play a prominent role without subjugating the guitars. The interplay of these dominant instruments results in a dense, powerful and energizing sound. The drum performance also has to be mentioned, because it does not lack of virtuosity. To cut a long story short, there is no need to be afraid of a sterile production with sticky keyboard lines. Slechtvalk is immune against the integration of sweetness and sliminess.

Fortunately, Slechtvalk is definitely not immune against the creation of fantastically configured songs. Just take a look at the playtimes of the single songs and you will get an idea of the general appearance of their sound. Slechtvalk do not appreciate simplicity (that´s a piece of cake) and they manage complexity masterly (that´s no piece of cake). It is amazing to see how the Dutch crew puts together the pieces of this difficult puzzle. Thanks to a pronounced sense for melodies, the epic works shine with a more or less perfect flow. They possess the right amount of breaks that lead to an exciting variety of tempo changes. But these changes do not hurt the harmonic overall impression of the tunes; and it goes without saying that I am talking of a very metallic form of harmony. Furthermore, I am impressed by the fact that the group is able to deliver nine opulent tracks without significant differences in quality. To avoid confusion, I am speaking of a remarkably high quality level. Each and every tune hovers at the interface between black metal and viking metal without offering trite "ohoho"-choirs. The order in which the subgenres appear is not randomly chosen. A few medieval and pagan moments cannot prevent that the black metal elements characterise the sound. Those of you who like Dimmu Borgir´s "Spiritual Black Dimensions" or "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia" will be familiar with the here presented kind of black metal. Especially the different voices - clean singing, grim nagging, deep growling - remind me of the sound of the Norwegians. And those of you who think that these Dimmu outputs are anything else but black metal do not need to read on.

Due to the fact that Slechtvalk delivers an almost divine mixture of heavy parts, effervescent melodies, hymnal outbursts, calm interludes and blastbeat driven sections, the album scores with the creation of different moods. Nevertheless, there is a tendency. The songs give you a feeling of discomfort. They summon you to be aware of an uncertain number of latent endangerments. But as mentioned before, the manifold album cannot be reduced on this atmosphere. The band leaves room for a breather from time to time. However, these breaks are short. The next sonic whirlwind is already waiting to capture you. Seen from this perspective, the name of the record company fits exactly. Thus, everything is in order? Well, some self-titled defenders of the real faith might say that they do not listen to "unblack" metal, due to whatever reason. I do not take part in this debate. I focus on the music, not on any kind of religion or ideology. Therefore, I just enjoy the fact that this album has enriched my collection in a sustainable manner. The liveliness and the mightiness of the compositions set the bar high for the competitors of Slechtvalk and, of course, for the formation itself. This might be the reason, why they did not write and release the successor of the here reviewed masterpiece up to the present day. Anyway, I hope they will return (and I do not care about the idle talk of Gene Simmons).