The Book of the Heretic
[Nazgul's Eyrie]

"The Book of the Heretic" is Countess’ fourth full-length CD release, and second as a completely solo project by band-leader Orlok, and once again Orlok succeeds at crafting his own barbarically-regressive style of old-school black metal while also developing the song writing and orchestration to an even greater degree than on the previous album, "Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam". Some of the riffs are simple, crude power-chord riffing (bass-driven and probably written on the bass as Orlok is primarily a bassist, but I’ll expand on that in a bit), but there are other guitar parts, acoustic parts, and even keyboard parts that weave in and out of the songs really adding depth and texture to the songs. This album is also a concept album, telling the tale of a time-travelling warrior of Satan and his struggle against religion, and the song’s overall effects do weave together to effectively tell the tale. This is also aided by some really nice packaging - an album cover that looks (oddly enough) like a book, which opens to an eight-page insert which tells in prose the tale of the Heretic and his struggle (also weaving in the parts of the story that each song tells, setting them off by putting the song’s titles in bold in the story - a nice touch IMO). There’s a lot of great music on this - from the pounding opener "On the Wings of Azazel" to the slow-paced, sinister "Give me Your Soul" to the medieval/classical keyboard/acoustic work on the instrumental "Mediaeval Shadows" to the multi-textured, majestic fourteen-minute epic "All the Master’s Children".

There’s only one gripe I have with this album, and unfortunately it’s a big one - the production. Most of us BM fans are used to raw or ‘bad’ production, either giving it leeway or honestly preferring it that way. Well, this album really has a production job that will take a LOT of getting used to. It was basically recorded in the same setting as the previous album (i.e. a real 16-track studio), and the individual instrument sounds are basically the same (that slightly midrange-y guitar tone, the ‘punchy’ bass, the fairly machine-sounding drums), but the mix is completely off - the bass is the loudest thing in the mix, and the guitars are far too low (in fact, in "On the Wings of Azazel" the guitar is totally drowned out by the bass). On top of that, the EQ job that was done on the drum machine tracks thinned them out to the point that it’s obvious they’re machine drums. I think even a simple remix would do wonders for this album. Even as it stands, though, the genius of the songs shines through, and after a while you start getting into the sound (after all, it is a REALLY cool bass tone) - but I couldn’t help myself thinking through the whole thing "if only they could mix that this way....". Songs this good deserve a bit more production work. Overall, though, I do give this a recommendation, but with the above warning.

© 2000 lord vic