posted on 11/2009 By:
There's an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed right off the bat...
Silly, me. That's not actually an elephant, it's just a late 80's version of "fat" Ozzy mainlining deep-fried twinkies in the corner.
But seriously, the first thing anyone is going to notice upon first hearing Count Raven is the fact that sole founding member/guitarist/vocalist Dan "Fodde" Fondelius sounds a hell-of-a-lot like Ozzy Osbourne, so let's just address that right here and now. To be perfectly honest, this fact has been one of the true selling points for me in regards to this band's releases over the course of the last two decades. The last Ozzy related release I actually bought and enjoyed was the Randy Rhoads tribute back in '87, and early Count Raven records such as Storm Warning and Destruction of the Void have always done a marvelous job of reminding me just how much I enjoy associating this voice with real heavy metal again. But, if you're the type that's put off by "sound-alike voices," you should probably take this opportunity to go roll around in the yard for a while.
Mammons War is the first record to come out of this camp in nearly fifteen years. Fodde and his two original co-Count's officially closed the book on the band back in '99 because of continued personal relationship deterioration, but Fodde tried to push forward with new partners under the guise of Doomsday Govournment with little result. Not to be discouraged, he pulled his latest drummer alongside and recruited Witchcraft bassist, Fredrik Jansson, for a brand new Count Raven assimilation. The results? Very familiar, but also very good.
Not much has changed in Fodde's approach to doom after such a long hiatus. The music is still decidedly classic sounding with little regard for fresh trends (other than the trend of sounding "classic," I suppose), and those already familiar with the band's sound from previous releases will be happy to hear all the trademark Count Raven elements still present today: loads of fairly simple, slow-to-mid-paced catchy grooves bolstered by Fodde's emotive vocal delivery and shimmery leads.
One thing's for damn sure, Fodde hasn't spent the years sitting on his hands; Mammons War features nearly two album's worth of material (or at least an album and an EP) by clocking in at 70-minutes in length. That's actually its biggest flaw, as far as I'm concerned. A bit of the fat could have been trimmed (the stale plod of "The Entity" and humdrum "Magic Is...", for example) for a more streamlined, "easier to digest in one sitting" release. Still, the record is a magnificent return to form with highlights aplenty.
Catchy rockers such as the opening "The Poltergeist" and the utterly infectious "Nashira" sound closest to the Ozzy/Sabbath years, but Fodde and crew truly shine when they bend the path closer to the grim. "Scream" still follows a relatively simple blueprint, but Fodde's spoken word and the added lush keyboard atmospherics and general mellowness introduced at its 2-minute mark give it the extra spice needed to make it one of the record's stand-out cuts. The 11-minute "A Lifetime" spends a lionshare of its time plodding along slowly and bleakly, but the beautiful and depressingly crushing lead mapped by Fodde's vocals at its 4:30 point pushes the tune into another satisfying mellow stretch before returning to slow riffing at its close.
The distressing lyrical content of "To Kill A Child" (the first metal tune to cover autism, I'vdepression and *gulp* filicide?) is matched perfectly by the song's dark, miasmic flare and shifts from brooding acoustics to crushing grooves (3-minutes in), and culminates with an emotive spoken word verse damning society's narcissistic tendency and too-quick-to-judge impulse; one of 2009's most interesting and affective doom tunes for certain. But as much as I love this particular song, the album's peak actually occurs with the entirely surprising title track. "Mammon's War" is completely devoid of anything other than 6-minutes of Fodde's voice and multiple layers of pulsing, epic and sweeping keyboards: obviously very, very different than what's expected from a typical doom band, but that's precisely what helps make Count Raven stand out from their many peers.
Add Count Raven to the strangely extensive list of bands making very positive returns to form in 2009 after a lengthy hiatus. Mammons War is a very enjoyable, engrossing release that should land itself at the top of any doom metal aficionado's "to purchase" list. While I'll admit there's a bit of fat that could have been trimmed, this platter is overflowing with the sort of elements old fans of Count Raven have come to expect from the band, and it's undoubtedly something deserving of newcomers' attention as well. Score another notch in the win column for Fodde and crew; Mammons War is yet another of 2009's many highlights.
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