The Shining Swords Of Hate
[Barbarian Wrath]

It is a sad and nostalgic moment when one of your favorite bands fucks up on you. At first, you try to deny pronouncing them dead by finding as many good moments on the album as possible; but eventually, you have to stop screwing yourself and realize that this band simply isn't as consistent as you had hoped. It was with great anticipation that I awaited The Shining Swords of Hate, as Countess had been a personal favorite ever since I heard Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam a few years back - I was so immediately overtaken that I worked my way through the entire respected and legendary discography. Orlok could do no wrong, and great black metal was being produced every step of the way.

I guess that from a practical standpoint The Shining Swords of Hate is really the only logical proceeding to the previous two weak recordings. However, where that material still possessed several inspirational segments reminding me of the past glory, the new one seems to utterly fail in all regarded aspects; the ferocious raw and squawking vocal style has simply degenerated into some stupid and distorted low singing. The guitars may have indeed become more melodic, but not in a good way - where is the energy and that raw emotion? This 7-track CD (666 limited hand-numbered copies) plays through one ear and out the other, closing with a cover of "The Return of Darkness and Evil" (Bathory of course) that hardly does that band any justice either.

Perhaps this is above the typical atmospheric crap nowadays, but unfortunately my expectations for Countess are a little higher than that. Orlok is well beyond mediocrity and his music should reflect such. The vocals have broken down, and when one element breaks down, the machine breaks down. Tolerating anything less than at least good is unacceptable.

This sucks.

2000 hando