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Shadow Music Ryan Harding Review by
Ryan Harding
Avantgarde Music

We return to the schizophrenic world of Norway's Carpathian Forest, whose two core members have never worried about meshing their singular styles. On one hand there is Nattefrost (guitars, vocals), whose approach harkens back to the early days of black metal and the usual suspects - VENOM, BATHORY, CELTIC FROST. Then there is Nordavind (guitars, keyboards), whose tracks are generally atmospheric and moody. The two have carved a niche for themselves in cult status, despite (or because of) the minimal output of a demo, mini-cd, and one full length. STRANGE OLD BREW follows up 1998's underappreciated BLACK SHINING LEATHER. The line-up is rounded out by guest musicians Tchort (ex-Emperor) on bass and A. Robro (In the Woods) on drums, with Tchort especially excelling in the bass heavy production.

Once again the majority of the songs were written in the mid-'90's, the oldest being the "Crypts of Rays"-like "He's Turning Blue" from 1997. The old school leanings are possibly even more prominent in Nattefrost's leading tracks "Bloodcleansing" and "Mask of the Slave," with "Bloodcleansing" injected with blasting speeds. A rare collaboration between Nattefrost and Nordavind yields the chaotic "Matyr/Sacrificulum" (their sole colalboration on BSL resulted in the darkly atmospheric stand-out "Lunar Nights") before Nordavind takes over with the slow, mesmerizing "Thanatology." Nattefrost then provides his highlight "Suicidie Song," a fine example of his penchant for borderline rock. The album then abruptly immerses itself in the thick atmosphere of Nordavind's horror soundtrack offerings "House of the Whipcord" and "Cloak of Midnight;" the former with synth comparable to a Fabio Frizzi score, the latter with high end guitar notes right out of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER. Speaking of horror soundtracks, Carpathian Forest recreates the theme from Jorg Buttgereit's yawn-fest NEKROMANTIK, faithfully and effectively. They've also redone "Return of the Freezing Winds" from the BLOODLUST AND PERVERSION demo.

Lyrically Nattefrost covers multiple areas with his dominant themes of death ("Thanatology"), misanthropy ("Bloodcleansing," "Martyr/Sacrificulum"), suicide ("Suicide Song," "He's Turning Blue"), sadism ("Mask of the Slave"), and sadomasochism ("House of the Whipcord"). There are some gems that rank up there with "The sun shines once a lifetime" and "These are the atumn years" from BLACK SHINING LEATHER, but maybe with a less hopeless sentiment. From "Bloodcleansing": "Discover something old/Discover something new/You have everything to fear/You're hated here." From "Suicide Song":

"This long road leads to you /
. . . Search your heart /
And get out before all heaven breaks loose."

STRANGE OLD BREW achieves a twisted balance that earns its namesake. Those open to the prospect of two different perspectives on the same band will find plenty to enjoy here. Those who lean toward Nattefrost can rejoice - next album (already recorded and due out in spring 2001) was done without the input of Nordavind, who has since left Carpathian Forest. This is probably the last time atmosphere will be strongly represented on a CF album. He can carry an album alone, but Nordavind's input especially makes STRANGE OLD BREW even more intrguing.


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This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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