Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Stonehaven – Concerning Old-Strife And Man-Banes
Hailing from the Midwest, (I’ve seen that they are from Kansas and Kansas City, and there is a Kansas City, Kansas, so both could be right), we have Stonehaven. They’ve come through Seattle a couple of times in the past year but unfortunately I did not catch their live shows, but I will rectify that in short order the next time they come through town, because this is the good stuff. The Midwest is not known as a stronghold of black metal, but these guys certainly own what they do.
This is as grim and frosty a release as any Norwegian black metallers could put out. Upon first listen I was positive this band had to be from Europe, so yay America for putting out some of the classic sounding stuff. And actually, classic sounding isn’t entirely true; because Stonehaven do mix it up a bit. I hear some slight nods to straight up death metal in their music, and they are also not so tied into the tremolo picking drone that a lot of black metal bands fall into. That drone stuff can be very good when it is done well, but in my humble opinion very few bands actually do it well, so you can wind up listening to a nine minute track that bores you to tears. These guys avoid that by mixing up tempos, mixing up progressions, etc, and as I said above, it’s really good stuff.
Album opener “Suffering The Swine Array” pulls no punches and just starts things off right at full speed. There are no classical or operatic type openings with this band, just good old fashioned black metal coming right at you. This leads right into “Death Fetter” which has some spots that have a death metal feel to them in terms of tempo and the playing. I think my favorite track on the album is the fourth, “Addressing The Scorn Pole”. It alternates between straight up black metal time signatures and a waltz time, almost folk metal feel, and the transitions are done really well. I have to say that the songwriting is one of the big strengths of this band. Every track on this release is well written. Nothing on this album sounds out of place or extraneous. It all fits, it all sounds good together, and makes my black metal heart feel good.
I have to talk for a minute about the album cover. It was designed by one of the band members to represent an actual event in Norwegian history from the late 10th century. King Olaf apparently wanted his subjects to convert to Christianity and was very adamant about it, to the point that when a particular pagan priest refused to convert, he wanted to make an example of the guy. So King Olaf and his henchmen tortured this priest publicly and the culmination was forcing the priest to eat a live snake. While I don’t condone the forced Christianity, I always love the zeal of the Norwegians and the other Scandinavian folks who brought us the Vikings and so much great mythology.
There are a total of 8 songs on this release and they are all top notch black metal. Do yourself a favor, check out this album, check these guys out live if they come through your town, and just dig the black metal goodness that is Stonehaven.