Thursday, July 11, 2013

Countess - Sermons of the Infidel

Countess are at it again, this time with a digital only EP containing two new tracks as well as tracks from last year's On Wings of Defiance and other periods. "I Am the Infidel," which seemed to be On Wings of Defiance's single or 'hit' and "Sermon of the Devil Preacher," both appear with different mixes as do the other older tracks. "Sermon," has other alterations to it as well though. Once again we are gifted with Orlok's brand of awesome Orthodox Black Metal featuring tons of riffs and melodies which are highly NWOBHM influenced and his signature sniveling vocal style which, for me, is always a highlight of his releases. "Sermon of the Infidel," the title being a combination of the two previously released tracks also contains one of what I would call my favorite Countess songs of all time now, "Son of the Dragon," and even though Orlok calls this an EP, it's thirty five minute run time is a bit more like a full length. In my opinion, this is an awesome place to start your adventure into Countess' discography because of it's shorter run time.

Being a digital release is kind of a bummer because Orlok has always found ways to put out excellently packaged and complete products. I would love to hold this in my hand so I can read the lyrics - which he always puts a lot of effort into - and due to the strength of the songs, the lyrics being available right in front you, letting you sit around and just follow along. The songs are short enough and straight forward enough where it would be really easy to remember specific choruses and verses which, in black metal, is rare. The album art on this is a bit of a let down. Just a simple papery looking background with titling and what looks to be an Arabic letter or something. Musically, this is pure Countess, pure genius. The only thing that might be holding it back is, as usual, the production. It's not bad or terrible, It's just very polished with a pretty sterile sound which contrasts, as usual, with Orlok's viperine vocal chirps and what Black Metal generally sounds like. Countess though, as we know live by their own rules so I don't really judge this on that much. Just a personal preference I guess. Once again on this release Orlok has had help from guitarist Zagan who can be credited with the rhythm and lead guitars which are a definite standout on the album. Orlok, as always, supplies the Bass which, as always, is clearly audible and major driving factor of the album. He is also to blame for the disgustingly inventive and addictive keyboard parts which have been a Countess hallmark for the entire Countess career.

The eight track album, all enjoyable tracks has three or four really memorable ones. The first of the four-track highlights is the revitalized "Sermon of the Devil Preacher," which is aided with an updated intro featuring new vocals. The two redone tracks are less trebly and a bit less distorted or over driven than the tracks from On Wings of Defiance. "Son of Dragon," my favorite track off the album, is just awesome. It has a doomy foreboding intro with some nice flair which carries into the the slower and bruising mid-section. Some awesome lead work early in the song and again near the end of the track is perfect. The whole thing is narrated by Orlok's signature vocals. "Child of the Millennia" is another highlight. It has a medieval, court jester like vibe behind a Venom-inspired verse structure. Keys add fanfare to the track and are, as on every track, used expertly to enhance the arrangement. The chorus is memorable as well but the best chorus on the album goes to "City of Satan," another spotlighted track. Utilizing a brilliantly memorable and catchy bombastic keyboard theme throughout the track, Orlok and Zagan in what I would consider a shorter track by Countess standards, maybe have the most accessible song here. It's hard to not smile at the combination of triumphant keyboards, big drawn out chords and Orlok's classic vocals.

For a digital album, this is one of the few I would say is worth the money it costs. It's really a great hole to fall into if you've never checked out Countess before and I would say that it even makes this notoriously love-it or hate-it band much easier to love than to hate. Far easier to check out this than say, The Return of the Horned One and genuinely enjoy it. The shorter tracks are a huge boon to Countess as well. As awesome as the longer tracks that appear on past albums have been, these shorter songs are a welcome diversion. I would dare say that Sermons of the Infidel truly 'rocks', as in Rock ' N ' Roll.  It kind of has that go-for-it and have a good time feel much more so than their past few albums which seemed much more serious. Orlok's once again impressed me with how varied he can be with Countess and I expect that people checking out Sermons of the Infidel will be impressed as well.

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