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Permafrost (1992)
 

Often, some of the best Black Metal has been raw, primitive and ugly. What some bands may lack in musicianship, they make up for in atmosphere and a genuine feeling. In the case of the Permafrost demo, released in 1992 by Countess, there is no such saving grace. Much like the majority of the band's output, this is rather terrible and not worth listening to.

The only positive things about this demo would have to be the lo-fi production and the strong reverence for Bathory. Unfortunately, the songwriting is really under-developed and the musicianship is absolutely horrid. The guitar riffs are disjointed and mistimed. The drumming is so inept that it makes the old Mütiilation demos seem overly technical. These guys show a complete lack of coordination with their own instruments and with one another. There exists a certain amount of room for primitive playing within Black Metal, but this is just unskilled playing at its worst. The worst offender is the Bathory cover, where the instruments seem to be playing different songs. This feeling prevails throughout the rest of the material, but it is most clear on this track since the original serves as a point of reference. It's so immensely incompetent that it's embarrassing to listen this. Even the worthless acoustic parts are out of tune and poorly played.

Countess always was a rather worthless band, and Permafrost is a good example of this. Avoid this trash and spend your time and money seeking out and listening to better quality music. Some of the best Black Metal has been created by people that were not technical wizards when it came to musicianship, but some level of competence is expected. To actually record music and to distribute it, prior to even learning how to handle the instruments, is just ridiculous. If this was supposed to be a tribute to Bathory, all they did was disrespect Quorthon's legacy, because this is a joke.
 
(2 Apr. 2014)

 
 

Formed in 1992, Countess is a Black Metal band from the Netherlands that seems to have gained some level of respect in the underground, over the years. How this ever managed to happen is a mystery, for this band is responsible for some of the most atrocious sounds ever captured on tape and passed off as music. One would expect good things from the band's debut album, The Gospel of the Horned One, upon hearing that it is highly influenced by old Bathory and the fact that it was released the same year as such classics as Under A Funeral Moon, Det Som Engang Var, The Somberlain, etc. However, the magic that possessed those records is completely absent, here.

Musically, this is incredibly pathetic and amateurish. Most of the songs are based around mid-paced riffs that seem only to be variations of the main riffs from Bathory's "Enter the Eternal Fire". The songwriting is beyond boring, with sloppy guitar playing that meanders, pointlessly, failing to create any sort of atmosphere. Perhaps, the band thought that the useless keyboards would tie things together, but that is not the case. Everything really falls flat, as it is clear that these guys had no clue what they were doing. This represents the epitome of horrible musicianship. The guitar playing is so terrible that one might easily mistake it for the rehearsal tape of a child that has only had a handful of lessons. The drums and bass are equally as simplistic, giving the impression that none of these guys had ever touched musical instruments prior to recording The Gospel of the Horned One. This would be considered poor, even for a demo. Unfortunately, Countess decided to release it as an L.P.

The production is a joke, as well. Everything sounds disjointed. It really comes off like a riff tape with the other elements added, later on. The guitar is the dominant aspect, though that is not really such a positive thing, in this case. There is hardly any distortion, and the fact that it is so prominent in the mix only showcases the sloppy playing and boring arrangement. The drums are buried beneath the rest, which is good as the drummer could not keep time if his life depended on it. The vocals are much too low, sounding as if they are coming from another room. There is really nothing about this that could be considered necro or lo-fi; rather, it is all just haphazard and clumsy.

The Gospel of the Horned One is an awful piece of garbage that should be avoided. The only redeeming quality about the debut album from Countess is that they were going for the more primitive approach of the First Wave, rather than imitating the Norwegian bands. Regardless of this, they failed to create anything worthwhile or even minimally enjoyable. This is boring and laughable. Do not waste your time or money on this.
 
(10 Feb. 2012)

 
 

Following the poor display of musicianship and songwriting found on the debut album from Countess, one really has to wonder how they managed to survive long enough to record another one. Every band is entitled to make a bad album or two, as long as they learn from their mistakes and show signs of improvement. However, Orlok had no battle plan ready when he put together a new line-up and began working on the band's sophomore effort. Released in December 1994, The Return of the Horned One not only failed to improve upon the first album, it can hardly be considered a full-fledged Metal record.

Orlok certainly put more thought into the songwriting, as this L.P. does not sound like a collection of rehashed Bathory riffs. Unfortunately, that would have been preferable to the atrocious filth that makes up the bulk of the second Countess album. One is likely to get the wrong impression from the outset, as "Aleidis" is not half bad, and sounds more developed and consistent than most of the material on The Gospel of the Horned One. The synth is too loud and it is clear, from the beginning, that the drummer was replaced by a machine; nonetheless, it comes off as rather solid, though average at best. It possesses somewhat of a gloomy feeling, aided by the ear-piercing vocals, but this track is not indicative of what is to follow. Songs like "Fire and Blood" and "A Cry of Hope Forever Gone" sound like more of a mixture between rock and techno, having almost nothing at all to do with Black Metal. The drum machine and bass lines completely ruin any chance this had, though it is not likely that it was ever going to become a classic along the lines of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. "The Wolf Cries Evil" and "Deisidaimonia" are about the only tracks to not bear these techno overtones, with the latter being the best song on the album. Even with better musicians and real drums, this tune could never hope to amount to anything more than mediocrity, but it really stands out among the horrid aural rape that surrounds it.

The production is really one of the worst things about this album. The guitar tone lacks any sense of rawness, which does no favours for the material. One would think that the band would want the guitar to be the dominant instrument, and to make sure that the sound is nasty and threatening, but it resides in the middle and is quite ineffective. The vocals are a bit too loud and, due to the shrieking nature of Orlok's voice, this becomes a problem. Neither of these things are as damning as the fact that the bass and drum machine are far too high in the mix. First of all, the bass lines are useless and do nothing to help the songs. The drum programming should be buried beneath the rest, to hide the fact that the band did not have a real drummer. Though, to be fair, it still would not have been so bad if the songwriting had been better.

The Return of the Horned One is a terrible album, even worse than the first one, and should be avoided by any means necessary. With this release, Countess proved to be a worthless musical entity and things only got worse from here. If you are just starting to branch out from the Scandinavian bands in your search for more Black Metal of this period, skip this and look instead to the Hellenic scene or the French Black Legions.
 
(4 Mar. 2012)
















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