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Black metal gets elegant - 97%

we hope you die, December 11th, 2018

For an entirely different approach to black I suppose we had better turn once again to the fertile soils of Greece, to an artist called Varathron. Name dropping Varathron inevitably occurs in the same sentence as Rotting Christ, and while there are similarities in their sound, Varathron were to approach black metal with arguably even more 1970s heavy metal influences than their scene mates. Their debut, 1993’s ‘His Majesty at the Swamp’ is arguably a classic doom metal album with a black metal aesthetic and a death metal vocalist. 1995’s follow-up ‘Walpurgisnacht’ took things in a more symphonic direction.

Make no mistake, this album is about as mellow as can be for one that still features break neck blast-beats, tremolo strumming, and guttural death metal vocals. But the production has been cleaned up, with drums and bass cutting through the mix with clarity underneath guitars that quite simply ooze melody and class. This is backed up by distant vocals that would be well and truly at home on a death metal album, but here are set distantly in the mix to add texture and depth. Occasionally Stefan goes clean with chants and calls laced with reverb. Synths are used sparingly but wisely to underlay prolonged instrumental sections of harmony and melody and interweaving tremolo riffs.

All this makes for a rich yet crystal clear album that does sit well and truly in the black metal camp, but has no need to rely on energy or profanity to make an impact. The album wears its low impact approach on its sleeve, which means it may take a few spins to truly be drawn in, but the persistent listener is amply rewarded for their time with some of the best in symphonic metal that the mid 1990s has to offer. Vararthron proved to have all the staying power of their peers Rotting Christ, but where Rotting Christ were overly prolific, Varathron offered sporadic releases of an exceptional quality.

But Varathron were unfortunately doomed to live in the shadow of countrymen Necromantia and Rotting Christ, but for the connoisseur of Greek metal, travel on, for many rewards await you in the discography of Varathron.

Originally published for : Hate Meditations