Perhaps that's where Countess differs from most black metal bands today. Instead of a constant array of grinding riffs and vicious blast-beats, Countess produces music with plenty of melody, mid tempo songs and even some folk passages here and there. This is just as much Manowar or Manilla Road than it is Venom or Hellhammer. The music is raw, primitive but so damn immersive, especially with those epic keyboards.
Yet, it's the keyboards that made me doubt this album at first. In 'Runenlied' they sound weird, a little too joyous for this kind of music perhaps. They also sound as if they're made by a bunch of young musicians, debuting their music and not by a seasoned band. But I quickly forget that when I listen to great vintage black metal tunes like 'Fly The Battle Flag', 'Fires Of Destiny' or my favorite on this album, 'Rise Of The Horned One'.
By now, the keyboards don't bother me anymore. In fact, they take me back to when I first heard this band. It must have been somewhere in the late nineties when I was into bands like Mörk Gryning and Ancient Rites. Back in the days, I loved their elementary but atmospheric sound but over the years the ever evolving technology caused me to move to other regions of the musical universe. Now, I'm glad I can once again listen to this old school stuff.
Because that's exactly what this is, awesome old school stuff. 'Plague Upon The Pious' for example is a great piece of work, epic, melodic, infectious and metal as hell. I guess I'll choose this one as my favorite on this album. Or how about the folky 'Treason Of Kings', which brings images of medieval Netherlands. So does 'Bard Van Het Verleden', a massive anthem with Dutch lyrics.
For fans of Countess, this certainly is a must-have. I guess it's safe to say that this band is one of the pioneers of Dutch black metal, or at least one the keepers of keys to the old school. They always deliver and they will always be Countess, firm, loyal and strong-willed. So yes, I will recommend this album. It's different, it's vintage, it's varied and it rocks. What else could you possibly want?