Friday, July 22, 2011

Countess- Burning Scriptures (2010)

“Burning Scriptures” stands as the 12th full length release by the Dutch madman known as Orlok and his one man band Countess. Countess is one of those bands where you basically know what you’re going to get: epic cuts of traditional black metal infused with strong doses of heavy metal and thrash—and it's done right.

The music is epic, attacking, and catchy. The lead guitar is intrepid, like an ancient call to arms, but at the same time playful and almost childlike. The bass (Orlok’s original instrument) is solid, bouncy and fully audible. Then, of course, there are Orlok’s vocals—sharp, high pitched and cracking—like a crow maniacally cawing. You either love them or hate them. Personally I think they are awesome. The one major addition to “Burning Scriptures” is the welcome return of the synth, which had been absent from the past few albums. The synth adds some body to the music and gives it a theatric dimension, which works well with the descriptive, image laden lyrics. 

While Orlok doesn’t write much bad material, he isn’t the most dynamic songwriter in the world. There are the fast, aggressive, thrash inspired tracks and there are the slower, epic, heavy metal inspired tracks. That’s about it. Thus, the album, which is 72 minutes long, drags. This is a bad habit of Orlok’s—his albums tend to wear out their welcome. The album does contain a Manowar cover, and two rerecordings of older tracks. The Manowar cover is pretty cool, but the rerecordings are unnecessary. If these tracks were left out, the album would be a lot more palatable.

The other problem with “Burning Scriptures” is that it simply lacks innovation. Yes, the reintroduction of the synths is a nice touch, but otherwise this album doesn’t explore new territory. Orlok demonstrated that he is capable of highly original (and strange) recordings with “Book of the Heretic” and “The Shining Swords of Hate”, easily his best two works. So why is Countess becoming so redundant? 

Nonetheless, even if Orlok opts for the beaten path, there are plenty of kick ass tracks that make this album worthwhile. For the faster, more biting tracks, “Poets Perry” stands out with its scorching, hateful verse and its headbanging chorus. The best of the slower tracks is “A Curse upon the King”, an anti-Christian anthem whose chorus will be stuck in your head all day. 

If you enjoyed Countess’s last few releases, then you will like “Burning Scriptures”. While Countess has become stuck in somewhat of a rut with regards to style, it’s certainly a style Orlok does well. When it’s all said and done, this is another fun, entertaining, though somewhat exorbitant release from Countess.

Overall: 7/10

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