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Continuation Of An Evolution - 87%

Skarnek, December 5th, 2012

I was seriously relieved as can be when I aquired this album. I heard that the gunslinger-hatted Taneli Jarva, who previously fronted Sentenced, had moved on to other styles and incorporated new sounds into his repertoire. So- I expected his bizarre growl/singing to set atop some strange mixture of Lynyrd Skynyrd and simplified death metal (or something like that), ending up with lesser musicians, and awkwardly constructing songs within a new framework of influences that he didn't know how to properly put together. Well, the good news is that I was wrong there. The bad news is that it did not last into future releases. Let's just focus on this particular representation of The Black League, then.

This actually sounds quite a bit like a continuation of the evolution that Sentenced was going through when they released "Amok" and the "Love And Death" EP. The music doesn't have much to do with death metal at all, which is what Sentenced was moving away from anyway. So, since there is no surprises; this is where my aforementioned relief was formed.

Classic metal ala the genres' well-knowns (Dio, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc.) plods along at a doomier pace than said bands, which immediately reminds one to not forget Sabbath when searching the mind for comparisons. This is, by the way, executed by very competent and skilled musicians who back Mr. Jarva just as nicely as his former band did, if not better in cases (given his unorthodox approach). When this camp does pick up the pace a bit, a gothic-tinged Motorhead tends to come to mind. Still; no surprises here. It's still dark, brooding, classy, and bruising enough for Taneli's in-tune growling. It never picks up enough to get too far away from minor chord progressions and send us into happy land, yet it certainly has a bit more poolhall-dwelling grit than Sentenced.

Some positively dark and true gothic rock influences are to be found on "Ichor". Fans of Fields Of The Nephilim will find out why there's a cowboy hat involved, since some of the passages seriously reek of this smoothe and menacing style of gothic rock. Given the range of influences listed, it is impossible (if I claim that the band pulls it all off- which I do) to not be aware of the diversity of the musicians. The 4 and 6 stringed axes are played with pure feeling, and the drummer is playful, tight, and phenomenally tasteful. I would've guessed this was new Sentenced if someone would've showed it to me without telling me. I would've just thought that they were evolving further.

My overall assessment of this first album By The Black League is that it was written with "Amok"-era Sentenced fans in mind, yet branching off enough to give it it's own identity. That really is how a person should move on from their signature band. Then, if they want to develop that sound further, do it gradually with the new band over time. I will just leave it up to someone else to explain that evolution, since this is the only album by this band I really care to have.

Blood of the gods indeed - 81%

MacMoney, May 21st, 2009

Sentenced's Nepenthe was a seminal album for a lot of Finnish metalheads when it was new with its dark lyrics about suicide and drinking to forget. The band and vocalist Taneli Jarva parted ways after its release and everyone knows what Sentenced did afterwards. Ichor is what Jarva went on to do. If you've heard any of the three latest The Black League albums, don't expect many similarities. First off, Ichor is more of a compilation of songs than an album. Yes, all the songs were recorded at the same sessions, but they were written over a very long period of time so it's no surprise that they don't form a cohesive whole all the time.

The album fires off with a rocker which showcases very well what its all about: Jarva. The song reminds one very much of Sentenced's The War Ain't Over with Jarva's harsh vocals reverbed and layered. They are rather unique in their own way, often confused as growling or death vocals which they are not, not on Amok either - they always carry a tune and never go anywhere near indecipherable. He just has a very gruff and unique voice that he uses well and is often produced very well. It's a joy to listen to in the faster, more rocking songs. On the calmer parts, he uses a dark and low croon very similar to Carl McCoy of Fields of the Nephilim-fame. It is unfortunately a rare treat since even on the slower songs, the going is very rough and Jarva delivers nearly every line with an almost unhealthy amount of ferocity and conviction.

The other members do bring their best as well. In fact, the whole band performs so well together that it's hard to believe that this is their first album together. It is also hard to make a note of their individual performances as they perform so uniformly. This is aided by the production in which everything is just right, nothing is overpowering or overpowered. Luttinen brings a strong performance with varied beats, listening to his drumming never gets boring. Of the guitarists, Alexi Ranta's solos really shine. Solos and leads are quite numerous on the album and while it is very melodic, the crunchy and strong riffs are what usually rules the background, Jarva's vocals keeping the foreground of course.

As earlier noted, the songs vary wildly. There are the slower, and very blues-influenced Deep Waters and Winter Winds Sing though the latter speeds up later on and features very nice use of hammond in the background. To accompany these are the Pink Floyd-influenced Ozymandias and Everlasting part II. The latter is a very quiet song with sparse instrumentation and vocals with a haunting atmosphere while the former wears its Middle-Eastern influences on its sleeve. These are the odd songs out (well, except for Winter Winds Sing) which sound very out of place among the heavier material. Even in those, We Die Alone is a more of a hard rock song done with metal stylings and Avalon is a slow song with a melodic guitar lead heading the way through almost all of the song. Especially the latter sounds like it's from a completely different album as compared to the rest of the album which relies heavily on riffs and of course Jarva's unique vocals. The album runs for almost an hour so it would've been possible to drop a few songs to make the whole package seem more concise and cohesive. Now, certain songs just get skipped because they ruin the flow. It is very evident though that the songs have been written over a long period of time. A certain maturity can be seen throughout the album and there are no needless or unworking parts in the songs themselves. They are clear-cut and precision-guided: a goal is set and it is always achieved. Just should've left more than the couple off.