Sunday, October 14, 2007

My King Has Shown Me Mecry, When I Should Have Been Punished By Death

After the success of Shamgar's Slechtvalk solo venture "Falconry" he took the opportunity to form a band and by 2002, Slechtvalk were (back) in the studio to record their adventurous sophomore (band debut) release "The War That Plagues The Land". They also released a split ep with Fear Dark label mates Kekal as a teaser just before, but I don't own that.

"The War That Plagues The Land" is a concept album about a warrior reprieved by his King after letting his troops get slaughtered by falling asleep while on watch. It tells of his journey for self forgiveness and his confrontation with Death and eternal life. All the while contemplating the state of the world and its wickedness.

The story is a little disjointed and simplistic, but if I recall an interview with Shamgar, he stated that he would most likely not tackle a concept album again as it is too hard to confine his larger stories to the formats of a metal album while keeping the story and characters complete.

All the same, Shamgar tackles a tale of medieval honour and human frailty with the subtle undertones of Christian moralities. Or so I got out of it. The music, however, is epic, bleak and brutal with emotional conviction.

"T.W.T.P.T.L." starts off with no interlude-ish opening often used to start concept albums, but blasts right into a solid force of symphonic black metal with a viking metal touch on the album opener "Of Slumber And Death". The viking influence is mostly with the male chorus's and clean narratives on a few tracks.

"From Behind The Trees" is similar with more narrative and features soprano vocals by Fionnghuala. "A Call In The Night" is a mid-paced melodic Viking metal influenced piece with some dark touches. And "War Of The Ancients" symphonic epic-ness brings to mind Viking metal legends Thyrfing. "The Falcon's Flight" is a majestic instrumental with melodic guitar work.

"And Thus It Burns" is a fast straight forward black metal tune. "Burying The Dead" is a majestic black metal piece with atmospheric melodies and "The Dragon's Children" is a bleak and darkly sinister song with the heaviest riff on the album whose eerie, airy outro leads into the album closer "In Paradisium"

If I'm not correct, and there is a good chance I might be, but I think Shamgar has said that "In Paradisium" is one of the first Slechtvalk songs written and yet it fits beautifully at the end of this epic adventure. It starts off with a dark doom/gothic feel and builds into a powerful, majestic and hauntingly uplifting song.

This album is chalked full of quality music, but the songs that stand out are "A Plea For The King" which is a hauntingly bleak atmospheric black metal song. The chilling soprano vocals is a nice contrast to the black/death vocals. My favourite track is "My Last Call". It's bleak and sorrowful yet epically majestic. It has the melodic sensibility of European power metal in a black metal tune. A fantastic song.

"The War That Plagues The Land" shows Slechtvalk are not a fleeting band, but have the staying power of black metal greats. Their sound is solid and stylistic and refreshingly familiar. For a debut band release, this is a strong album with great songs and excellent musicians.

Up next is Slechtvalk's third opus "At The Dawn Of War" and the band reminds us what it's like to be brutally melodic.


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