22 Apr 2014
Countess - Ancient Lies And Battle Cries [Full length] (2014, Barbarian Wrath]
Ancient Lies And Battle Cries presents a new chapter in the history of Countess, the 2013 EP "Sermons of the Infidel" serving as an adequate bridge between the "old" Countess and this newer incarnation. The Dutch band has for the most part been a one-man effort at the hands and throat of Orlok, with a select few exceptions mainly in the 90's, and last year's EP and the new album marks the time when Countess has once again expanded upon the lineup with the addition of Zagan on guitars. Zagan also played guitars on the 1997 EP "Hell's Rock and Roll". Ancient Lies And Battle Cries is an album that has been underway for many years with several versions being worked and expanded upon since 2004.
The Dutch band has been around since the 90's, and the many albums the band has produced over the years has revealed a decisively traditional heavy metal approach to black metal, a tendency which has only been made more apparent with each new release. This means keyboard synths aplenty, as well as a slower and more melodic pace than most contemporary black metal groups. The songwriting and composition in itself also speaks volumes of Orlok's love for tradition, only seldom expanding into full fledged black metal grandeur. Each track on Ancient Lies And Battle Cries is very lengthy, almost excessively so. Tracks like Battle Sky and By Hammer And Blood go through many changes, both stylistically and in disposition, before their end, meaning that each song can be different to discern in the grander scheme of things because there are relatively few hooks to remember them by. Beneath The Eye Of Wisdom is an exception to this and is arguably the album's strongest track in itself with its hate-fueled heaviness, catchier guitar section and more easily digestible song structure taking it a step further.
The addition of a guitarist has added substantial depth and heaviness to Countess' music, something that I had lamented in my review of their last album "On Wings of Defiance". I'm still not entirely sure why Countess so openly shuns layered guitars. An old school approach to recording an album with each instrument being recorded simultaneously might explain it, but this technique is more or less ancient and it is doubtful more than a handful of jam-based bands use this anymore. The addition of more layers of guitar would drastically change the drearily ongoing nature of Countess music, and while some may consider this to be how the band is supposed to sound, I personally think it would greatly add to the music's enjoyability.
Ancient Lies And Battle Cries, although greatly improving upon the formula used in the writing of On Wings Of Defiance from 2011, ultimately suffers from many of the same problems. Many tracks bar a few good ones merely meander around in an impressive abundance of tedious melodies without ever truly blossoming into the raw epicness they so obviously strive for. Burn The Throne, Cursed Seed Of Aten and Beneath The Eye Of Wisdom are definitely the three best tracks on Countess' newest album, with each of these cuts actively marking the fact that Orlok is a seasoned musician, and that he has it in him to produce some cool songs. But it seems to be too much of a hit-and-miss type of thing. 5/10 guitars.
1. Battle Sky
2. Call of the Ancient Pantheon
3. By Hammer and Blood
4. Vengeance of the Slain
5. Beneath the Eye of Wisdom
6. Confessions of a Polytheist
7. Pray for the Cult
8. Cursed Seed of Aten
9. Burn the Throne
10. The Last Temple
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