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Bloodlust and Perversion (1992)
 

Carpathian Forest is an odd band. Their first three releases are their best, which wouldn't be so bad if not for the fact that they are made up of two demos and an E.P. All in all, less than ten real songs make up the band's prime. By the time they managed to record full-length albums, the quality of the songwriting had become very inconsistent and they never were able to put together a single album that could be considered entirely solid.

Their first demo, Bloodlust and Perversion, was released in 1992. Emerging the same year as A Blaze in the Northern Sky, Live in Leipzig, Burzum, Wrath of the Tyrant and Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism, this tape was nothing all that special, or significant, by comparison. Carpathian Forest could have met the same fate as a band like Incarnator, releasing a demo and then fading into obscurity. Yet, somehow, they were able to survive the fallout of 1993-94 and retain their primary influences for a while.

What one can hear on this demo is rather thickly produced Black Metal that owes a great deal to early Celtic Frost. Looking past the intro and outro, this tape only has three real songs, yet they are among the strongest that the band ever put together. The sound is very heavy, with very little treble and a massive wall of sound that makes Morbid Tales sound like a lightweight. The songs are mostly mid-paced, with subtle guitar work that adds a creepy effect, somewhat foreshadowing the following demo. The songwriting is not absolutely consistent, as the title track ends with a strange Death Metal section. Still, it is not totally out of place. When listening to "Return of the Freezing Winds", one cannot help but think of this as the bastard child of "Procreation (of the Wicked)". The riffs are fairly simple and memorable, while creating a feeling of darkness and doom. This is aided by the great vocal performance of Nattefrost. His voice is very raspy and sinister and adds an evil aura to the recording.

Though Bloodlust and Perversion lacks a track like "Carpathian Forest" or "Journey through the Cold Moors of Svarttjern", it still ranks as one of their best recordings and is something that all fans of the band need to hear. Carpathian Forest possessed a lot of potential that went to waste, but their first outing was rather successful and should appeal to those who like the old school Black Metal of the '80s as well as the Second Wave bands.
 
(15 Mar. 2014)

 
 

Journey Through the Cold Moors of Svarttjern is the second official demo from the now-infamous Norwegian band known as Carpathian Forest. Released in April 1993, this recording is quite different from Bloodlust and Perversion. This is one of the most unique releases in this band's discography, and also one of the best.

Unlike their previou outing, which was dominated by heavy riffs that owed a lot to early Mayhem and Celtic Frost, Journey Through the Cold Moors of Svarttjern is a much more atmospheric effort. Two of the three tracks would end up on Through Chasm, Caves and Titan Woods, without much alteration. The title track is a dreary and woeful tune that includes acoustic guitars and some of the most anguishes shrieks ever captured on tape. Of the three, this is the most complete and meaningful song on here. "The Eclipse / The Raven" is a morose piece that includes a couple verses from the famous poem by Edgar Allan Poe. The obscure vocals are backed up by sparse synth, sound effects, acoustic guitar and simplistic bass lines. Its relative brevity suits it well, as much more would have been excessive and monotonous. "The Last Sigh of Nostalgia" is quite similar in structure, though it clocks in at eight minutes long.

The production is not too bad for a demo. Unlike many others around this time, it is definitely not lacking in bass presence. Rather than being trebly and harsh, there is kind of a warm tone to the guitar. There is a bit of distortion from the drums, but not enough to distract from the rest. The vocals are mixed at an even level that allows for the dark and miserable feeling to be conveyed, without overpowering the music.

Journey Through the Cold Moors of Svarttjern is not an essential release, given that two-thirds of this is present on the band's debut E.P. Nonetheless, if you have the chance to pick this up or acquire the tracks in some manner, do so. This ranks pretty high among the band's output and is one of the more worthy releases under the Carpathian Forest name.
 
(12 Mar. 2014)

 
Through Chasm, Caves and Titan Woods (1995)
 

Carpathian Forest first emerged with the demo tape Bloodlust and Perversion, in 1992. They received sudden enthusiastic responses from the underground. Their obsessive, morbid and grim sound has always been a firm trademark. In 1993 the band released a second demo Journey Through the Cold Moors of Svarttjern, showing also a new approach to atmospheric, but still glacial sounds. These tapes quickly became coveted items in underground tape trader networks. One year later, they signed to Avantgarde Music and recorded their first mini album.

Through Chasm, Caves and Titan Woods was released in 1995. The title of the E.P. was taken from a line of the Edgar Allan Poe poem, "Dreamland". My first experience with this band was around the time Morbid Fascination of Death came out. This album contained some decent songs, but it was nothing very special so I paid very little attention to this band. It was only some years later, when my girlfriend turned me on to the earlier material from this band, that I came to appreciate them in any way. From what I have heard, this is probably the pinnacle of this band's creative output.

The E.P. begins with the song "Carpathian Forest". From the opening moments, this possesses a strong Hellhammer influence. The difference here is that the vocals are far more sinister and suitable for the music. There is also a wicked lead solo that is reminiscent of old Bathory. There is some minimal keyboard use, as well, which is used to add to the dark and horrific atmosphere.

"The Pale Mist Hovers Towards the Nightly Shores" is next, and the old school feeling still dominates the sound, sounding much more like 1985 rather than 1995. This does not seem to have very much in common with the other Norwegian bands of this time period, other than the spirit of Darkthrone's Panzerfaust. The solo work is excellent and Nattefrost's vocals are about as morbid and grim as it gets.

This is followed by "The Eclipse / The Raven", which is a very atmospheric song that captures the sorrowful and dark feeling of Poe's most well-known poem. The vocals sounds as if coming from the distant shadows, possessing a ghostly quality. The band displays, even at this early stage, an ability to create eerie soundscapes.

"When Thousand Moons Have Circled" returns to the ugly, Hellhammer-influenced Black Metal. Carpathian Forest always seems to sound a little similar to old Mayhem, possibly giving an idea of how they would have sounded if they had continued with the style established on Deathcrush. Again, there is very minimal use of keyboards, accentuating the atmosphere.

This E.P. concludes with the epic "Journey Through the Cold Moors of Svarttjern". The pace is much slower than the rest and Nattefrost's vocals are utter shrieks of torture and abysmal suffering. The organ use adds greatly to the morbid and depressive atmosphere created here. This feels like a mournful funeral march. As the song progresses, the misery courses through your veins. A lifetime of sorrow returns to you, all at once, overwhelming your senses. With each tormented scream, with each somber melody, the poisonous despair leaves you weakened and ready for the end.

"Frozen is my pagan heart,
And once again the dawn is here
Hear the sound of silence,
In these trees....
Are my gallows...."
 
(8 Feb. 2009)

 
 

Three years after Through Chasm, Caves and Titan Woods, Carpathian Forest returned with their debut-full-length, Black Shining Leather. Released through Avantgarde Records in July 1998, this L.P. picks up from where they left off, but fails to really do anything incredibly worthwhile. This is sort of like a sampler platter of Norwegian Black Metal, borrowing various elements from most of the better-known bands in the scene and bringing them together to create something that is rather generic and bland.

Black Shining Leather features a great variety in tempos and styles. From blast beats and fast tremolo melodies to mid-paced Hellhammer worship to the slower and more methodical arpeggio riffs, reminiscent of Burzum, Carpathian Forest manages to take the listener on a bit of a roller coaster ride. Of course, there are keyboard passages thrown in, here and there, for good measure. They do not always fit into the songs, but they are present, nonetheless. The atmosphere shifts from attempts at dark and serious to more of a laid-back rock feeling, quite randomly. Pay attention to the transition from the opening title track, which is kind of dark, to the Celtic Frost-inspired "The Swordsman" and then back to the more dramatic feeling of "Death Triumphant". This continues throughout the duration of the album. The songwriting is rather mediocre, for the most part, with very little really standing out. The songs are not bad; however, this is far more useful as background music, which is not a good thing. For all of the upper-tier bands that are referenced, Carpathian Forest is unable to do anything on the same level. The best songs on here are probably "Black Shining Leather" and "Lunar Nights". The latter represents Nattefrost's most impressive vocal performance, allowing his voice to really come through well. His vocals are, certainly, one of the most enjoyable aspects of this band's sound. This is too bad, since he would be better suited for a more grim musical approach.

The production is better than most underground Black Metal releases, without being polished at all. The main thing one might notice is the peculiar sound that this record possesses. The bass is very prominent in the mix, and the guitars are not as raw and threatening as they should be. This, alone, gives the music a less-serious vibe that the actual compositions are rarely able to overcome. Nattefrost's vocals are always high enough in the mix to be appreciated. The synth is rarely loud enough to overpower the rest of the instruments, though it would not be much of a crime if it did.

Black Shining Leather is an average album that could have been pretty good, with a different musical direction. Given all of the time since the previous E.P., one would think that Carpathian Forest would have been able to construct something much more solid. The songwriting is consistent enough, but the problem is that it is consistently mediocre. There are a couple of memorable tunes on here, but nothing near the level of "Journey Through the Cold Moors of Svarttjern", for example. If you like generic and simplistic Black Metal, this may be for you. Otherwise, save your time and look a bit deeper.
 
(14 Feb.2012)

Strange Old Brew (2000)
 

Strange Old Brew is a rotten album released by a band that was only ever consistent in their own inconsistency. With their sophomore effort, Carpathian Forest chose to explore the more experimental side of things, while also taking a more modern approach to songwriting. The end result is an L.P. that only contains a couple songs worth hearing, and even those are hardly what one would consider to be essential listening.

This record consists, primarily, of disorganized ideas and mediocre execution. The quality of the music represents a severe drop from the band's previous output, especially Through Chasm, Caves and Titan Woods. Half the album is meaningless filler. Out of eleven tracks, four of them easily recognized as garbage, right from the start. The ridiculous intro and outro, along with the two useless instrumentals, do absolutely nothing for the album and only serve to add to the feeling of disarray. Poor compositions like “Mask of the Slave” and “Martyr / Sacrificulum” show just how generic and uninspired Nattefrost and Nordavind were, when writing the material for Strange Old Brew. “Bloodcleansing” and “The Suicide Song” are a step above these, but still rather bland and forgetful. “Return of the Freezing Winds” is at the same level, though the stolen Celtic Frost riffs should count against it. It is pretty sad to think that most of the passable moments of this record have been heard before, countless times. The highlights of the album are “Thanatology” and “Cloak of Midnight”, which are both mid-paced tracks that convey a gloomy and sombre feeling. That said, standing out amongst refuse is hardly an achievement, and neither one comes close to matching the atmosphere of “Journey through the Cold Mists of Svarttjern”. None of the songs on this album give off the feeling that Carpathian Forest were really trying to do anything other than pump out another below-average album, in order to make a few dollars and keep their name out there.

This album was already a few years old, by the time I gave it a listen, and I made the mistake of trying to digest it alongside Black Shining Leather. I failed to really pay attention to the differences between them, and really did not give either a good deal of attention since I was much more impressed by their first E.P. When actually listening closely, Strange Old Brew is not only represents poorer songwriting, but the overall vibe of the record is kind of offensive. Production-wise, this sounds too modern, which seems to work against the very idea of ripping off old school ideas. It is not terribly overdone, but enough so that it affects the feel of the songs. The better tracks on here would have benefited from more of a grim and ugly sound, or perhaps something colder at least. Of course, they had very little connection to the true underground and most of their Norwegian peers had long ago abandoned the old ways.

Strange Old Brew is an album that should be avoided, as it will likely only succeed in lowering your opinion of Carpathian Forest. They were never the greatest Black Metal band around, in the first place, but this record is over 50% trash. The rest is either sub-par or barely average, which is not something that is worth your time, money or attention when considering how many genuinely good bands are waiting to be discovered. Already, at such an early stage in their existence, it seems this band lost what little creativity that they once possessed.
 
(3 Apr. 2012)

 
 

Morbid Fascination of Death is the third full-length album from Carpathian Forest, released on Avantgarde Music in 2001. This is the last record to feature both Nattefrost and Nordavind, as the latter would depart the band after this. Their final effort together sees their creation coming full circle, as this album seems to be the most natural successor to their 1995 mini-album, Through Chasm, Caves and Titan Woods. The music is much more straightforward, with only minimal experimentation. Sadly, even after removing most of the worst elements, the end result is still below-average and unimpressive.

The album begins with “Fever, Flame and Hell”, which is an odd intro track that features cheesy, horror-inspired synth. It really does not fit in very well, taking away from the overall impact of the rest of the material and getting things off to a bad start. This is the sort of thing that one would expect from Rob Zombie, not a Norwegian Black Metal band.

The first real song is “Doomed to Walk the Earth as Slaves of the Living Dead”. The title may be ridiculously long, but this is one of the most memorable tunes ever recorded by Carpathian Forest. It does a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the record, while also making up for the nonsense that preceded it. The old school Celtic Frost-meets-Mayhem vibe is still present, as is the less serious vibe that characterizes a lot of this band's output.

With only a brief rest in-between, the title track bursts forth in a furious manner. This song is a lot faster and more intense than the last one. There is not a lot of variation on display, but that is probably a good thing as it offers less opportunities for the band to play around and ruin a good thing. “Morbid Fascination of Death” gets right to the point, bludgeons all in sight and then vanishes as quickly as it appeared.

“Through Self-Mutilation” features more technical bits, with the riffs and drumming becoming a little overactive, at times. The band seems to be channeling later Immortal, during those brief moments at the beginning and end; however, the rest is more simplistic. This would be a rather average song, but the strange vocal effects, near the end, make it unbearable.

This is followed by “Knokkelmann”, which gets things back on track with a decent slab of old school Black Metal. Again, the primary influences seem to be Celtic Frost and Mayhem, which is not a bad thing. There is a thrashy part that could have been toned down, just due to how awkwardly it fits in, as well as unnecessary synth that does nothing to benefit the track. If Carpathian Forest had focused on the more primitive and nasty riffs, they might have accomplished much more.

“Warlord of Misanthropy” is filler, more or less, and is very much out of place on this album. Most of the riffs would have been better suited for a modern Death Metal album, and it all comes off as very disorganized. Even the slower riffs are fairly worthless and do little to create any sort of feeling, whatsoever.

The next song is a very good example of how inconsistent and lost Nattefrost and Nordavind often were. “A World of Bones” starts out with a more Rock-based rhythm, early on, yet changes its identity a couple times. The middle section sees the pace slow down, as the band attempts something more atmosphere, only to abandon what little momentum they build up in order to throw in more random ideas to close the song out.

Following this abomination is one of the best songs on this album, “Carpathian Forest”. Unfortunately, it is merely a re-recording of a song that previously appeared on their debut E.P. This version is pretty faithful to the original, except that it is slightly less enjoyable due to the very minor differences in tempo and so on. Nattefrost's vocals are weaker and less sinister, as well. There was no reason to record this song again, other than to try resurrection the brief period when Carpathian Forest had a little bit of potential.

“Cold Comfort” is more of an experimental track, which would possess sort of a sombre vibe (with a melody reminiscent of the main theme from the 1980 horror film, 'Maniac'), but the atmosphere is ruined by what sounds like a saxophone. Whoever came up with this idea should be blinded with a railroad spike, as it kills what little chance this had of being decent, while also introducing yet another foreign element into the sub-genre.

“Speechless” is a similar track that utilizes only minimal guitars and synth, with whispered vocals, sounding more like an outro than anything else. At least, in this case, the approach is pretty consistent and there are no more ridiculous appearances by instruments that have no business being used by a Black Metal band. 

Ending the album is a cover of an old Mayhem song, “Ghoul”. They pull it off rather well, maintaining the filthy, old school attitude of the original, just with better sound quality. In terms of songwriting and performance, this has to be the very best track on this record. The sad thing about that is the fact that another band wrote the song. Furthermore, the execution is not that great, just better than on the rest of the songs. It says a lot about your band when the songs you cover destroy your original material.

In the end, this is another disappointing release from a band that should have done so much better. The music is based in '80s Black Metal, mixed with Rock influences as well, but the songwriting is just so half-hearted. Only a few of the songs are worth listening to, more than once. For a band with such a good background and worthy inspirations, Carpathian Forest just never managed to live up to its potential. This is even worse when considering that Nattefrost is one of the most recognizable vocalists from the Norwegian scene, especially when he put forth his best effort. Morbid Fascination of Death is just another reason to hate this band, not for being terrible, but for not being anywhere near as good as they should have been.
 
(23 Apr. 2012)

 
 

Released in the autumn of 2003, Defending the Throne of Evil is the fourth full-length from Norway's most notorious underachievers, Carpathian Forest. There are a lot of things that can be said about this band, whose only true consistency lays in the inconsistency of their output. Despite emerging from the birthplace of Mayhem and Burzum, these guys have a lot more in common with Venom. For one, their recordings suffer a drop in quality from one to the next, yet they were always a very powerful and energetic live band. Therein rests one of the main problems for Carpathian Forest, as it really seems that they cared more for tossing together a collection of tunes and then hitting the stage with a few new additions, rather than putting forth a great amount of effort toward making memorable albums, in and of themselves.

Defending the Throne of Evil marks the first release since the departure of Nordavind. This may account for the lack of attempts at atmospheric material. "The Well of All Human Tears" is a fairly decent mid-paced track, but does not come close to "Journey Through the Cold Moors of Svarttjern". The songwriting here is more straightforward, though the synth is still ever-present. This album sounds even more polished and modern than the previous records, a problem that worsened over the years. The truth is that the slick production matters little when the majority of the songs had minimal potential to begin with. The best track on here is "It's Darker Than You Think". This is both the most enjoyable and the most frustrating song on here. To address the latter, it's simply the fact that this track demonstrates what Carpathian Forest was capable of, when actually putting forth effort. Unfortunately, this is not something that they could often be bothered to do. At any rate, the tremolo melodies and vicious vocals of the chorus section show a band that is capable of doing something decent, but they utterly fail to capitalize on it. Nattefrost's voice deserved to be utilized for a much better project than this and is, in fact, one of the only good things about this L.P. The rest of the songs run the gamut from mediocre to the absurd, even going so far as to include saxophone bits to seem experimental and progressive.

Defending the Throne of Evil is another example of horribly modern and generic 'extreme metal'. Here, Carpathian Forest just throws together Black, Death, Thrash and Doom riffs with no real direction. This is just generic nonsense with slick production no purpose or meaning, even more useless than Morbid Fascination of Death. Thankfully, this was one of the final abominations to come from this band. If you're looking for real Black Metal, avoid this.
 
(23 Oct. 2015)

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