Thursday, June 21, 2012

Countess- Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam (1995)

Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam marks the turning point in the development of Countess. After releasing a pair of terribly produced and poorly performed albums, Orlok finally got his act together. For the first time, Orlok plays all the instruments and records in an actual studio. The difference is significant; in contrast to the sloppy and aimless early releases, Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam is a clean, focused and highly entertaining recording. 

The production is exponentially superior to its predecessors. All the instruments are well balanced and easily audible. Orlok’s vicious caw is sharp and biting. The guitars are raw while the bass is sturdy and dense.  Synth is used sparingly but effectively to add bits of ambiance. They are put to excellent use on the epic and catchy intro and outro, which revels in bright and bombastic orchestral melodies. The only aspect of the recording that sounds poor is the drum machine; beyond the fact that it sounds super cheap, Orlok also employs some really corny tambourine and maraca tones that are quite out of place on a black metal album. 

Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam blends both the doom and thrash roots of black metal, interweaving faster, thrashing passages with big, ugly doom riffs. These shifts give a dramatic, theatrical character to the album. Orlok’s over the top lyrics, which are almost exclusively about Satan or Countess Bathory (surprise, surprise) further accentuates the theatrical dimension.  

This is a solid album from start to finish. There aren’t a lot of standout tracks, but rather just one gritty piece of black metal after another. The one track that really stands out is “Blood on my Lips,” which is probably one of the few love ballads in the history of black metal. The song consists of classical acoustic guitar, drum machine and Orlok’s relentless screams, which are just as harsh as they would be on a straight forward metal track. Distortion eventually arrives and there is even a short metallic passage in the middle of the song, but by and large this is an acoustic ballad with black metal vocals. The lyrics describe a vampire’s lament for a lost love that he recalls every time he drinks someone’s blood. Quite heartwarming. There’s also a cool cover of St. Vitus’s “Born too Late,” which fits well with the dingy, doomy atmosphere of the album.  

While Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam lacks the brilliant moments that are present on some of Countess’s other albums, it is full of solid old school riffs compiled into strangely effective story tale format. This is one of the cleanest examples of what Countess is all about is a great starting point for newcomers to Countess’s sizable discography. 

Overall: 8/10

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