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Stíny Plamenů - Mrtvá komora - 75%

Phuling, January 17th, 2010

Stíny Plamenů is one of those names I’ve seen all over the place and read tons about, but I’ve actually never bothered to check them out. Don’t know why, usually I’m quite fond of Czech black metal and one of my current favourites (Kult Ofenzivy) are Czech. So there really aren’t any reasons why I wouldn’t have looked up Stíny Plamenů. But oh well, this is their fifth fullength album and as stated my first encounter with them. From what I understand their lyrics are kind of silly, so maybe it’s just a good thing I have no idea what they’re going on about. But apparently they deal with sewers and venturing down into sewage systems, but also combating Christians. Not really sure how the two themes team up, but they certainly take advantage of their unorthodox lyrical theme as the sewer approach to the music makes for quite an unusual experience.

Some of the percussion here is, I dare say, unheard of before. To further dwell in the sewer theme they’ve incorporated the banging and clanking on pipes into the music. It adds a weird-as-hell effect to the tunes, but unfortunately it can at times sound too repetitive. Not the use of the particular percussion, but the fact that it sounds as though they’ve only got two or three different beats that they’ve just looped and re-used. It’s not overwhelmingly annoying, but more variation in that area would enhance the experience a lot. If you would completely set aside the sewer sounds it’s black metal in the Swedish way, with a 90ies agenda. Imagine early Marduk, Thy Primordial and at times even at speeds of Vargavinter. It’s set at a fairly fast-forward pace, but seldom to the point of neck-break blasting, with aggressive, melodic riffing. It all reeks of Sweden circa mid 90ies.

These Czech lads deliver the goods very well, and they’ve got all the aspects down for a complete nostalgia flashback. But since they’ve got that unorthodox sewer aesthetics going on it sounds far from boring, like some copy cat acts do. Stíny Plamenů is not a copy cat act, though, and with the addition of the harsh, gnarly vocals it takes on a different vibe than we’re used to hearing from Sweden. You know that typical rant that sounds extremely pissed off, that only Eastern European men can deliver? Well, they’ve got ‘em. And while they take you on a somewhat familiar journey there are enough aspects of it to become unique. Instead of traversing high mountains, embracing mother nature in all its glory (as is key for many black metal bands), or even venturing into the most inner circle of hell, you get to wade through sludge and sewage beneath the ancient cities of Czech Republic.

Originally written for

Public works ist krieg - 70%

autothrall, November 20th, 2009

Stíny Plamenù remains one of the more interesting black metal bands around, if solely because of their sewer metal concept. I've criticized the band in the past because I never felt they used this quite enough, and it seems as if Mrtvá Komora, their fifth full-length, finally strikes the right balance. On an ironic note, it's also arguably their best album when it comes to straightforward black metal, for indeed, this is a work of blasting mayhem that simply comes at you from a new direction, with the same effect. Don't look to the woods, look to the manholes beneath your feet.

This is a fast fucking record, and if you don't have the patience to deal with manic blasting and guitar rhythms that consist of non-stop grinding rhythms that only hint at the sinister melodies of their peers, you probably will not find much interesting in its depths. The album has a similar ability to bands like Endstille to fabricate somewhat hypnotic shining riffs through the repetitive note patterns, there is always something that lifts them slightly above average. The prolific Lord Morbivad continues to sneer in his native tongue, and Lord Sheafraidh remains quite the brute on the kit.

It doesn't start on a strong foot, sadly. 'Úhlavský kanalizační sběrač' is a scorcher, good and fast, but doesn't get so interesting until it's bridge rhythm with accompanying pipe clanging. Yes, this is how the 'sewage' manifests itself through much of the record, a series of clanking pipes and grates used as percussive effects. They don't add as much as you'd like, I'd honestly prefer some more echoing sounds and dripping to go along with it, but at least it makes Stíny's music ever so slightly original beyond the black metal core. These effects are used a little better in the grinding blasterpiece 'Litinový teror' and the thrashy, collapsing title track.

The material is really a mix of the more interesting melodies and atmosphere with some very standard rhythms, but I found that the latter half of the disc picks it up. 'Odpusť vodárny' has some great, eerie bass lines popping along beneath the vile riffs, and 'Zatmění plamenů' is both glorious and depressing. Taken as a whole, it's over 45 minutes of Stíny Plamenù's tighter work, though I would still give the edge to previous album Odpadní galerie if you're just getting into this band.

There is still not enough sewer in this sewer metal, I would love to see the band further their atmosphere to create something truly compelling and effective. More sampling, maybe a use of synthesizers, I'm not sure, but at least the band's lyrics and the clanging underground percussion provide proof of concept. Mrtvá Komora is tight and traditional enough to appeal to the more conservative black metal addict, with just enough variation to place it outside the norm.

Highlights: Litinový teror, Odpusť vodárny, Zatmění plamenů