Carpathian Forest

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Black Shining Leather

Carpathian Forest - Black Shining Leather ©1998 AvantGarde Music
1. Black Shining Leather
2. The Swordsmen
3. Death Triumphant
4. Sadomasochistic
5. Lupus
6. Pierced Genetalia
7. In Silence I Observe
8. Lunar Nights
9. Third Attempt
10. The Northern Hemisphere
11. A Forest

Carpathian Forest is one of those longer running black metal bands that, despite having released many albums and been around in the scene's earlier days, has never generated much appeal to me. I've heard several releases and for the most part I find myself utterly indifferent to whatever they're trying to present. Black Shining Leather, with its occasional themes of BDSM and general perversion, is a prime example of an album that has all the prerequisite elements for a black metal record and little of the appeal of some of their contemporaries.

Essentially all of this album's problems can be boiled down to lackluster songwriting, only to be compounded by a rather weak production that goes overboard on the cavernous reverb. I'm not sure if Nattefrost envisioned music as created in some bat filed cave somewhere, but the resulting noise mostly finds sounds bleeding and slapping into one another. Black metal might not have gone for many pretty studio sounds, but in this case the songs are neutered in a big hurry. Of course, it should be reiterated that the songs weren't all that good in the first place. Ironically, the only notable moment on this album is their cover of The Cure's "A Forest", a surprisingly solid version that just adds a little atmosphere of creepiness to the original. But beyond a song where their only achievement was selecting a very well written piece, Carpathian Forest manages to do nothing more than waste about fifty minutes of your time. A dismal and unimpressive effort.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/2011

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Strange Old Brew

Carpathian Forest - Strange Old Brew ©2000 AvantGarde Music
1. Intro – Damnation Chant
2. Bloodcleansing
3. Mask Of The Slave
4. Martyr/Sacrificulum
5. Thanatology
6. The Suicide Song
7. House Of The Whipcord
8. Cloak Of Midnight
9. Return Of The Freezing Winds
10. Theme From Nekromantikk
11. The Good Old Enema Treatment
12. He's Turning Blue (bonus Track)

As one of an ever-shrinking number of "elite" cult bands worshipped by "true" black metal fiends, Carpathian Forest can properly be expected to sound, raw, nasty, misanthropic, and evil - defining qualities of the old-school black metal sound. What may be more unexpected (and disheartening) to some is that at times their newest, Strange Old Brew, bursts with an almost childlike exuberance and playfulness that belies its stern imagery. On a superficial level the music seems grim and severe, and it is; certainly one would be hard pressed to find anything cheery or good-humored about songs like "Thanatology" and "Return of the Freezing Winds". And yet track titles such as "The Good Old Enema Treatment" and "He's Turning Blue" are consciously tongue-in-cheek pokes at black metal music's austere façade. The album itself is far from perfect, but its more facetious moments and enthusiastic playing nearly compensate for a number of serious songwriting gaffes.

The "raw" black metal that Carpathian Forest plays is in many ways more like simplistic thrash and punk rock than the refined and orchestral black metal species that is fashionable nowadays. Fast and aggressively played, the music moves along quickly and is quite fun to listen to. However, the songwriting really isn't all that great and the flaws become conspicuous after several listens - strip away the energy and the atmosphere, and the crude power chords have a tough time standing on their own. The cracks are particularly visible on slower-tempo, doom-thrash tracks such as the awkward "Thanatology" and the reverb-filled "Cloak of Midnight". Problem is, these moodier songs leave Carpathian Forest's songwriting naked and exposed, and the suspect craftsmanship loses the luxury of hiding behind speed and passion. These nitpickings may not matter much to those looking for a quickie black metal fix, but for everyone else, Strange Old Brew long-term viability must be called into question.

The customary black metal screeches are buried deep in the mix, even as the bass guitar and percussion can both be heard clearly. A few interesting numbers spice things up and merit special attention: "House of the Whipcord" is a saxophone-accompanied piano tune that comes as a welcome respite between two harsh and extreme numbers, and "Theme From Nekromantikk" is an orchestral interlude that begins with an almost embarrassingly simple piano melody. One shouldn't mistake Strange Old Brew for an experimental album however; nothing is further from the truth. Rather, one should take this album for what it is - an enjoyable, if unessential release that'll nevertheless get your head nodding to the beat.

Review by Jeffrey Shyu

Review date: 10/2000

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