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Even the soils stirred in unrest - 65%

autothrall, July 31st, 2011

Similar to Legion of Doom or Darkthule (the latter of which has shared several of the lineup in the past), The Shadow Order stands among the more nationalistic acts, politically and historically, to rise out of the Greek scene. But more importantly, their debut Raise the Banners exists as further evidence that the deeper the roll of years, the less that the newly manifest Hellenic bands of the late 90s or 21st century were bearing the musical distinction that their forebears imparted years earlier. For, though it's not at all a bad album, Raise the Banners sounds like it might have arrived from just about bedroom act anywhere in Europe, or beyond, with a decidedly Burzum aesthetic in the guitar tone and composition.

It's also an album which takes a few tracks to really develop, as the meandering, raw "Raise the Banners" itself and the faster but futile and predictable "When the Day Comes" are nowhere near the strongest compositions. In fact, they're hardly any impetus to keep listening. Like a lot of NS black releases, it's low on the production totem, with a rather regrettable drum machine that is consistently its biggest drawback. The guitars are fuzzy and tearing, though, and the vox have a harsh resonance to them which I enjoyed, and once the first 7-8 minutes of the debut have cleared, it becomes more effective with the bleeding, airy streams of "Strife for Revenge", the storming, chunky and overpowering "End of Journey" and even the epic, cheesy ambient synthesizer piece "Viktoria Divina" which somehow fails to wear out its welcome after almost 8 minutes of lo-fi droning!

The real gems are tucked into the latter segment of the album, "Blood and Honour" and "War Against All", which both feature some strident, cutting mid-paced riffing redolent of Det Som Engang Var or Transilvanian Hunger. These were originally found on their '98 promo, and if you've got the later CD release of this, there are also a pair of bonus tracks in "The Oath...", a martial ambient piece that erupts into filthy black metal, and another ambient piece, "Faith is Stronger than Fire", with some thundering percussion beneath. Both are solid additions to what is largely a tight and terrifying debut. The production is obviously pretty amateur, and the drum programming a sore thumb that would have been soothed with an actual live skin basher, but we all know that this is just not an option for many underground musicians. In the end, Raise the Banners takes a little too long to really make an impact, but I've heard a lot fucking worse, and there are some good guitar melodies strewn about its savagery.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Blood and Honour - 79%

Sacraphobic, August 20th, 2004

Although not a hugely innovative album, this is one of the better BM releases in recent years. Raise the Banners' beauty lies in the band's excellent instinct for melody and their ability to create a huge sense of epic in songs that are often less than four minutes long. Hellenic pride is quite clearly surging through this release. War, blood, honour, glory, death - all central to this album's role.

The band is certainly derivative of the early Norwegian bands in some respects. The second track highlights this; beginning with a riff that might have found its way from Transilvanian Hunger were it not slightly more epic and glorious and slightly less cold (+ accompanied by less typical drumming), and turning into a riff that's somewhat similar to the classic Det Som En Gang Var riff. Yet even this song is very cool, certainly a step above the majority of derivative bands these days - it has a strong sense of direction and purpose.

The whole album is paced nicely - mainly Burzum-esque mid-paced rhythms, and blasting used successfully, not excessively. Melancholic melodies are used to great effect, particularly in my personal favourite "End of Journey", and the album's longest track "Viktoria Divina", an engaging and isolating keyboard piece. I like the vocals quite a bit - hollow, echoey and powerful growls integrated effectively into the songwriting. Normally I dislike drum machines, but one is used to good effect here, adding ambience and a war-like atmosphere in equal parts.

Complaints about this album: The production could be better. The volume changes sometimes, which doesn't greatly hamper my listening pleasure personally but has been slated by other RTB listeners in the past. It's also rather thin, which again may bother some people. I'd also like the album to be longer - it's barely over half an hour.

To summarise, this isn't a groundbreaking piece of art, but it's certainly worth adding to your collection.