posted on 10/2009 By:
The Black have one of those sparse and only slightly interesting back-stories that the corpse-painted hordes just eat up. These Swedes initially got together way back in 1991, when the second wave of black metal was gaining speed in Norway but barely a blip in their home country. They enjoyed cult status during the first half of the decade, partially because none other than Jon Nödtveidt (of Dissection fame) was a member at the time. After just one album in 1994 they disappeared. They resurfaced recently (obviously sans Nödtveidt) and put together Alongside Death: 30 minutes of raw, very un-Swedish black metal which is completely devoid of originality and yet should be strangely satisfying for fans of the genre.
During the era of the band’s first incarnation, Swedish black metal was known far more for the melody of bands like Dissection and Dark Funeral than for the rawness and atmosphere of their Norwegian neighbors. The Black evidently didn’t get the memo. The prevalent sound of Alongside Death is raw, riffed-up, sometimes even slightly ambient black metal in the tradition of Darkthrone, demo-era Emperor, and the first Burzum album. The riffs mostly alternate between a mid-tempo chug and dissonant half-sweeps; the drumming is both skillfully and appropriately played; and the refreshingly articulate vocals have a cavernous quality similar to suicidal USBM, but are much more distinct in the mix.
The album begins deceptively fast with “On The Decent To Hell” and “Death’s Crown” before slowing the pace for most of the duration. “A Contract Written In Ashes” shifts from eerie and spacey into a more rockish drive about halfway through, and is one of only two songs to pass the five minute mark. “Dead Seed,” a fine little slice of black metal’s much slower side, features the band at their utmost moody. Of the rest, “Fleshless” separates itself by bringing a tad of modern Darkthrone’s crust mentality, and the title track bookends the album by temporarily bringing back the speed.
Clearly a case of “if you dig the style you’ll dig the album,” Alongside Death is actually more enjoyable than the above scoring would indicate. This type of black metal just has a certain sound, and The Black execute that sound quite well. They essentially add nothing to the genre, and they certainly wouldn’t be used as an introduction to the style, but for those who just can’t get enough of all things raw and riffy, the album is worth a spin, perhaps even several. A purchase might not be an obvious recommendation, but a trip to their Myspace page to check out a few songs definitely is.
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