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Atmospheric, intense and harsh - 96%

CannibalCorpse, February 27th, 2007

The years 1993 - 1996 were extremely productive if you take a look at the Hellenic bands around that time. Nowadays it takes Varathron several years to record new material (between this and "Crowsreign" there happens to be a 9 year gap).

Anyway, many of those who read this review probably know their highly acclaimed debut effort "His Majesty at the Swamp". It's general opinion that their debut is their greatest work to date, but today, I'm absolutely sure that I have to disagree.

Read on.

"Walpurgisnacht" is definitely superior in terms of atmosphere. While the debut was without a doubt better produced, it also lost quite a bit of intensity on its way. "Walpurgisnacht" is one of those few albums, which just oozes atmosphere. The razor-sharp production on the guitars, the reverbed vocals and the thick bass provide soundscapes, which are seldom heard elsewhere.

Necroabyssious' vocals are at their rawest on here, he's spitting his guts out and simply delivers. He might not be the most diverse vocalist out there, but his vocal work is simply a must for Varathron's music.

The amount of riffs has lessened a bit, though. Prime example for this is probably "Cassiopeia's Ode" which has around 4 riffs, but is a whole 8 minutes long. The guitar work in the song is great and for me, the lack of many different riffs is not a major problem, but people with short attention spans might get bored pretty early on.

The Dark Hills" and "Mestigoth" are two slower, calmer songs with good atmosphere and some nice clean interludes. Especially the former manages to amaze in terms of atmosphere and euphony. "Birthrise of the Graven Image" is probably the most "brutal" track on the whole album, featuring a great guitar solo by Sotiris of Septic Flesh and some amazing riff-craft throughout. Necroabyssios' vocals shine too, as he unleashes some of his ugliest screams (BIRTHRISE!!) in his entire career.

"Redeunt Saturnia Regnae" is a change of pace, as it is a song based on piano and synth only. The melodies are rather simple but in company with the synth they really manage to capture a sinister feeling. "Under the Sign of Horus" is another excellent track, filled with melancholic and heavy metal tinged riffs, which again show the enormous creativity of Varathron's music.

Sotiris unleashes another great melodic solo on "Somewhere Beyond Seas", reminding (again) of his own band origins in Septic Flesh. Definitely the highlight of the last full song on this album. "Sic Transit Gloria Mundi" is a short and simple, but effective closer, based solely on a simple acoustic guitar lick.

Some people tend to say that "Walpurgisnacht" shows a lack of coherent songwriting, but if you listen closely, you'll realize that "Walpurgisnacht" is only different and a bit harder to digest than "His Majesty at the Swamp".

It took me many months until this album fully embraced me, but as of today, I rate "Walpurgisnacht" two points higher than their infernal debut opus.

A must-have for Hellenic black metal fans and traditionalists alike.