A quick lesson in geography. Even though Hammond Centennial World Atlas shows Northern Canada to lay 10 – 20 degrees latitude south of Norway, at the same time it gives Northern Ontario average temperatures in January to be 10 – 20 degrees lower than Oslo and Bergen. Warm ocean currents must be a powerful thing. If this climate data is of any indication, coldness and grimness of Norwegian Black Metal has to be matched and exceeded by any black metal band hailing from Northern Ontario. North Bay residents Vanquished set out on a mission to prove it.
I would not have brought up the geography points myself if Vanquished did not hype up the fact that they are the “real black metal” band from Northern Ontario, not Toronto, Windsor or some such other feeble place. Inspired by harsh nature around them and being totally dedicated to the spirit of old-school Norwegian Black Metal this trio created an extremely raw, brutal and aggressive black metal album with Black Northern Storm.
First off, let’s give credit where it is due. Vanquished realize that being true to the spirit of old-school black metal does not mean crappy production. Northern Music Studios provides the band with grinding and blasting sound that is both powerful and crisp. This is hi-fi brutal black metal if I can label it this way. Also, the execution on the album is just about flawless. The band sounds super tight, credits going to both spending a long time in the studio and drummer Warhammer (nods to Hellhammer?) possessing an incredible stamina and being quite good at all styles of extreme skin pounding. The sound and musicianship on Black Northern Storm is definitely not where the problems exist with the album.
Just like good progressive metal musicians often lose themselves in the attributes of the genre so do the Vanquished troop. Being wrapped up with the unquenchable desire to be the “truest black metal band in Canada” did not do any favors to the songwriting on Black Northern Storm. The blasts are fast and wicked, but they constitute the vast majority on the album, being interrupted only by some, what else, slightly slower blasts or just as booming double bass. There is no breathing room for riffs and melodies Vanquished are trying to exploit. And whatever riffs there are that bubble to the surface, they are buried by some of the most detuned washboard guitar sound I have heard in a while. The combination of the unrelenting blast and unstoppable fuzz deprive compositions on Black Northern Storm of individuality and, eventually, memorability. Being raw and brutal is not bad, sounding the same from one song to another is. I was looking for the solid shot of energy when the album started but was feeling tired by the time Ruins of Religious Tradition was over.
The band purportedly has two vocalists, both guitarists Dertah and Grimnyr are contributing in that department. You would not ever guess that, unless you are in possession of the booklet. They both sound identical, monotonous linear shrieking, so I do not quite see the purpose in the approach, unless one vocalist is allowed to catch a breath while the other spews forth the lyrics inspired by dark forces, cold and no love for Christianity.
For me good moments on Black Northern Storm exist when the whole wall of sound co-exists synergistically, remnants of melodies are allowed to poke through and riffs become purposeful. To that effect the title track and Left Behind are good examples of rhythms blasting along while the northern grim wave of melody pushes forward ratcheting up the pressure. Guitar distortions and flowing solo melodies on Ravaging the Shores and Ascendancy of the Boreal Wake also stand out.
If you are just trying to get into black metal, its brutal side anyway, do not make Black Northern Storm the first record you purchase. It will slosh the brains in your skull and you would not even know what hit you. In that regard start with the Norwegian predecessors, Immortal and Satyricon, Vanquished are so proud to hold on the pedestal.
Killing Songs :
Ravaging the Shores, Black Northern Storm, Left behind
|Alex quoted 56 / 100|
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