Vlad Tepes/Belketre – March to the Black Holocaust 5/5
This is the album that’s responsible for re-sparking my interest in black metal. I’ll be honest, the original Norwegian got a little stale on me, and I nearly forgot about the genre completely. However, with the days getting shorter, and the temperature diving ever lower, I thought it was time to give a few new bands a chance, and I was lucky enough for this to be one of the first albums to fall into my lap.
This split is widely considered one of the best to come from the LLN (Les Legionaries Norte, or the Black Legions), and rightly so. The two bands here come from the same area, share members, even play in a similar style, yet manage to sound completely different. A worthy feat in my eyes.
Vlad Tepes starts the album with a short instrumental track. Normally, I’d refer to something like this as an intro, but this is one of the finest songs I’ve heard and deserves more respect then being mistaken for some ambient clip that should be skipped over. Wladimir’s March is an easily accessible piece of Black metal that’s both coarse and grainy, as well as ‘rockin’. It sounds like the band might be tuning up for a show or just shredding in a garage. An admirable attitude in these days of ‘I’m kvlter then u’ faux-demonicness.
The members all pull their weight. The vocalist performs a sighing growl that properly demonstrates the type of mournful hatred that black metal is based on. The guitarist is a driving taskmaster that pushes the songs along at a quick pace, especially evident on Diabolical Reaps. He also breaks out a few solos, another energizing change from the popular styles. The drummer is strong, but his performance is a little shy of being spectacular. The bass even has a few audible lines!
The majority of VT pieces are strong, with a few fillers thrown about. Most songs are short, clocking in between 30 seconds to 4 minutes, with the exception of the epic 11 minute DtPotCD. While the lyrics quite indecipherable, the song titles due for a few laughs. ‘In Holocaust to the Natural Darkness’, and ‘Drink the Poetry of the Celtic Disciple’ are both prime culprits, but the songs themselves make up for the ridiculous titles. Almost FEKTHREROENNUERM-esque, eh?
Vlad’s closer ‘Under the Carpathian Yoke’ deserves mention as it’s one of few Black metal pieces that I can honestly call ‘groovy’. The fact that this band possesses the ability to simultaneously inspire homicide by arson and light-hearted drunken debauchery is astounding.
Highlights on Vlad’s Side: If I mentioned it, it’s a highlight.
Belketre, on the other hand, is a far more traditional black metal group in that the members seem much lass set on having fun, and more occupied with making insane tunes. Much more distortion is used here, and the small amount of bass heard earlier has now disappeared. The band likes to follow a pattern of using a mostly ambient or non-linear pieces with clean samples to build tension, which is capitalized on in the next one or two pieces. It’s repetitive, and predictable, but effective to building the pieces up, one after another. These guys also know their way around a tempo-change.
Vocals are shrieks with a lot of good variation. The drumming has much improved from the earlier side, but the guitarist seems to have suffered a severe loss of skill. Not to mention the guitar is now so distorted, it sounds almost synth-like. On some of the slower parts, such as part through ‘A Day Will Dawn’ it’s noticeable how similar the styles of these two bands are, no matter how differently they are played.
Highlights on Belketre’s side: Those of Our Blood, The Last Sigh of God.
By C.J. Ulferts