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One of the best modern black metal releases - 95%

SROCeallaigh, August 27th, 2012

More recently I have come to the same conclusion of Varg Vikernes and Fenriz that the vast majority of black metal is not worth bothering with - most is unoriginal, does not come close to understanding what black metal is supposed to be about, and usually suffers from one of two extremes - nauseatingly polished production or amateurish bedroom-level production and musicianship.

Sunwheel, however, are something else...you can the influences of Burzum, and, given the dark symphonic nature, probably early Emperor as well, but they are clearly a talented and original band in their own right...

I don't shy away from checking out national socialist black metal bands but most sound awful, and have idiotic lyrics...Sunwheel stand head and shoulders above the rest, the deep genuinely hate-filled vocals sound great (perhaps influenced by the early work of countrymen Behemoth?), the lyrics do suffer somewhat from broken English but given the subject matter I actually think the lyrics are surprisingly good despite the dodgy grammar and are often very poetic...It's not your usual cretinous NS "I want to bum Hitler" stuff, there is a lot of pagan nostalgia in there (as illustrated by the beautiful synth intro not too dissimilar to their other band Kataxu), and as is crucial in True Black Metal there is loads of genuine hatred and rage in here, disdain for weakness and corrupting organized religion, so they remain true to the black metal philosophy in my view, which is arguably easier to pull off from a less politically correct hateful background not interested in agreeing with mass opinion or in following any trends...

The music itself and the riffs are as good and ferocious as the vocals, and the, in comparison to Kataxu, more subtle atmospheric synths fit perfectly...I don't think that black metal should rely on synths too much (Mayhem and Darkthrone have proved over and over again that it's possible to create an incredible, grim as Hel atmosphere with no keyboards whatsoever), but like Emperor's first album and the similarly subtle synths on Burzum's 1993-4 work, the synths are there to compliment the music and enrich the atmosphere without overpowering it and making it sound too campy (countless bands like Dimmu Borgir don't seem to get this)

Overall a fantastic EP, consistent from start to finish though the high point for me is the title track probably which builds up to an amazing, atmospheric climax...shame their first full length album did not really come close to its brilliance but suppose the latest Kataxu album more than makes up for that (also fantastic by the way, check it out too)

Sunwheel...To the Fight! - 95%

Dank, August 24th, 2006

Monuments of the Elder Faith is the second release from the Polish black metal outfit Sunwheel, after Prophecies of the Aryan Moon which was originally released under the previous band name Swastyka and again as a split with Grom(US).

I could go into a song by song review, but I tend to find those tedious to read, let alone write, so I’ll abstain from that and review the EP as a whole.

Comparisons to guitarist/vocalist Piaty’s other project Kataxu are probably unavoidable, but there are distinct differences in musical style between these two acts.

Whilst Kataxu has a distinct symphonic ambience (including completely ambient tracks), Sunwheel has a slightly more hard edged approach which is showcased with aggressive vocals which can be described as a guttural rasp – (possibly Satanica era Behemoth although a little more black metal sounding), and grinding guitar riffs.

On first listen the production is vastly improved from their previous recording, which makes the listening experience that much more rewarding as all instruments are now fully audible. The songs tend to be quite catchy, which arises from common tempo changes of simple but varied riffs, interesting vocal patterns and relatively intelligible lyrics. The keyboards manage to add fullness to the sound without dominating the music. (Dimmu Borgir references are unjustified).

The real substance in this album comes from the second, third and forth tracks, with the intro and outro acting as bookends to the symphonic fury in-between.

Running for just over 24 minutes this is not of ideal length but since its usually obtainable for less than a standard full-length this isn’t a major drawback. Sunwheel’s Monuments of the Elder Faith is a solid black metal release, its only problem is by the time its over I’m left wanting more.

This is unexpected... - 42%

Iron_In_The_Fog, January 31st, 2006

1. Declaration Against Judeo-Christianity (Intro)

"Declaration Against...." starts off with brooding synth keyboards over some ambient sounds that could easily be the start to any of today's modern techno/new age bands i.e. Frontline Assembly or Delirium. Around the 1:40 mark layered vocals come in chanting, very reminiscent of early death metal for example Obituary & Death, the vocals are drenched in reverb and echo heavily.

Overall this gets a 4/10 because it seems to be a very pointless intro, the only thing that pulls this from a lower score is the chanted vocals because this style is not widely used in the NSBM scene.

2. Completing the Four Sides of the Flaming Sickle

"Completing the Four Sides..." comes in all guns blazing, blast beats, screeching 80s Death Metal vocals, just after 10 seconds the riff changes and drum beat changes to mid paced double bass. It reverts back to blast beats around 0:46 mark. Through the entire 5:44 of this song what I notice is the keyboards, they are constantly their not giving the guitars room to breath. Their is a somewhat reverb tone to the guitars, this track wouldn't be in the wrong place if it was on a Dark Funeral album.

Overall this gets a 3/10 because their is nothing overly original about this song, I find my self skipping through the song to find any traces of good riffage only to realize I’ve skipped my way through the entire. Overall a through tedious song, unless your fans of Dark Funeral and today's melodic black metal. Not something I would expect from an NSBM band.

3. Under the Banner of Hate

"Under The Banner Of Hate" comes in and immediately you can hear the keyboards, the guitars and drums very reminiscent of Dimmu Borgir. Around the 0:40 mark the guitars take on a slight Fear Factory influence with the chord progressions. Blast beats ensue, as the song progresses the vocal delivery and structure becomes slightly more interesting with overdubs and sticks out from the rest of the song.

Overall this song gets a 4/10 because or though it is better than "Completing the Four Sides..." it is mainly blast beats and overpowering keyboards, this song becomes very tedious after about a minute.

4. Monuments of the Elder Faith

Now we come onto "Monuments of the Elder Faith" the title track of the EP, this track comes in fast paced double bass drum beats with guitar riffs very reminiscent of early Gehenna, around the 0:40 mark the drums change to blast beats before reverting back to double bass. Around the 1:30 mark the vocals come in and once again the keyboards overpower the guitar riffs leaving just a wall of sound no different to that of Gehenna or Dimmu Borgir. As the song progress we find some originality around the 3:40 mark as the riffs taking on a slightly dreamy feel to them this carries on until we reach 4:40 in the song where the drums and riffs become more fast paced and the drums change to blast beats, as we enter the ending minutes of the song are the 5-6 minute mark the riffs change to something slightly reminiscent of Gehenna again but more original, the song carries on like this as the drums switch from blast to double bass constantly.

Overall this track gets a 6/10 because it is by far the most original track on the EP, the song however is still very tedious and can become boring at times with its overpowering keyboards that are no different to that of Dimmu Borgir.

5. Invisible Empire (Outro)

"Invisible Empire" starts off very much in the same way "Declaration Against..." does, only it doesn't have the techno/new age overtones or chanted grunts leaving just the brooding keyboards, this outro I feel would be more suited on a Dimmu Borgir album than on an NSBM record.

Overall I give this track 0/10, as it is very bland, generic and pointless to the whole feel of the record.

Overall if your not into melodic black metal, for example the bands I spoke of in the review namely Early Gehenna, Dark Funeral and Dimmu Borgir do not buy this EP.