Album Title: Burning Scripture
Label: Barbarian Wrath
This is the twelfth album from Countess, a Dutch one-man band band playing orthodox black/heavy metal.
Burning Scripture has by far the best production of any Countess album to date. The guitars are right up front in the mix, yet still retain that signature Countess sound, and the bass on this record is even more audible than before. The drums are programmed, yet surprisingly natural -- as always, this is one of the few metal bands that can manage this without wrecking everything. Best of all, keeping the vocals in the back of the mix has allowed Orlok to come much closer to his classic, pre-Shining-Swords vocal style. The keyboards also hark back to olden days; the mix of subtle background keys with much more obvious synth lines brings Book of the Heretic to mind.
To my ears, this record is as much a leap forward as Spawn of Steel was. While the last few albums have been more than solid, this one surpasses them easily, with nine memorable songs written in a smooth synthesis of Countess' epic and aggressive styles. Orlok's guitar playing is much improved, too, lending the solos a flexibility that hasn't been heard since Zagan left the band. Lastly, the anti-monotheist theme unifies this record perfectly, making it much more cohesive than anything since Heilig Vuur. Songs like "Chariots of Thunder" and "Burning Scripture" combine fast, aggressive riffing with shout-along choruses and cutting solos. "Mad Pharaoh" and "A Curse Upon the King" are more atmospheric pieces which bring to mind early Manowar and mid-period Bathory. The vocals on the latter are especially excellent, full of heathen vitriol! "Blood of Our Gods" takes the same theme to its extreme, delivering nearly ten minutes of stately keys and massive riffs. The shifting key/riff pattern on this track is exceptional throughout... and when Orlok finally changes it up, it becomes shiver-inducing!
Countess also present two re-recorded bonus songs: "Hymn to the Gods of Yore" (originally from Revenge of the Horned One, Part 1) and "Schemering der Goden" (from Heilig Vuur). Both are tremendously improved by the production here, and are a perfect fit for the album's theme. I was especially pleased to hear "Hymn to the Gods of Yore" again -- that one was always a major highlight of the Revenge... records.
This is easily the best Countess album in five years, and maybe even the best since Shining Swords of Hate. If you like the band at all, you owe it to yourself to get this immediately... and if you haven't been convinced by Countess' recent albums, you should investigate this one, because you may be pleasantly surprised. Highest recommendations.
Standout Tracks: "A Poet's Parry", "Mad Pharaoh", "Blood Of Our Gods"