Release DetailsLABEL Adipocere
RELEASED ON 10/1/2004
Return Of The Ancient Laws (Re-Issue)
posted on 2/2005 By:
Berserk, hailing from Spain, play a very historically astute (read: old school/derivative) form of symphonic black metal, which hints at landmark attempts at this style by bands like Burzum, Emperor, and Enslaved. And Oaken Shield has re-released their debut EP, Return to the Ancient Laws. Are you, the reader, dismayed in any way by this? I was. Not because I dislike any of those bands I mentioned, in fact, I'm quite fond of them. Unfortunately, my affinity for those bands does not extend to those trying to perpetuate their style of music in the current millennium; not usually. But, to tell the truth, this is a somewhat classy release that does justice to this style of earthy, symphonic black metal.
So what exactly do we have here? Those unfamiliar with the names I dropped in the first paragraph can expect a thin, but serviceable production. The treble is cranked, drums are mixed a bit unevenly with crash symbols making their presence known at odd and inopportune times. The bassist exists solely in the liner notes. It works though, as these songs aren't really attempting to convey "heavy." What they are trying to convey, or conjure, is some manner of entrancing atmosphere. For many, that's the main attraction of this stuff. The album begins with a the somber acoustic intro, "The Wind Makes Its Celtiberian Law," before kicking into ... um ... modest gear with the first real song, "Forest of Souls In The Wolf's Land." It's not exactly intense by modern standards, but as I am forced to keep reminding myself, that is not the point. The riffing is repetitive and it goes down easy when served underneath a healthy coating of synths. "The Celteberia" follows and is the highlight of this four-song EP. This track recalls Gehenna with its melodic, nearly thrashing guitars and frequent tempo changes. I'd like to hear what Berserk would sound like if they put a little time into developing this sound. The EP concludes with another well played acoustic instrumental, "La Tene's Son," and it's a fitting epilogue to this easily digestible but ultimately un-stirring release.
Also featured is a live recording of three songs written and recorded after the initial release of Return of the Ancient Laws and an excellent cover of Burzum's "Lost Wisdom." Surprisingly, the production is quite solid, and the material is far more moving when portrayed in a live atmosphere. Vocalist Nazak screams his guts out and the band occasionally reaches some blistering tempos they seemed wary of on the EP.
So what can I say in terms of constructive criticism to Berserk without writing off the principals upon which their style of black metal seems to be based? Nothing. So I'll just get right at it. This band is talented enough and shows promising flashes of passion and vivaciousness in a live setting. However, if you want to earn more than just the begrudging respecting of e-zine reviewers you've got to establish a bit of a personal identity. As it stands, at least on this EP, your music isn't quite heavy enough to amount to any sort of visceral satisfaction for the listener and it's a bit too faceless to make for the sort of engaging experience you seem to be going for.
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