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Barbarians (1995)
 

Maniac Butcher is a somewhat obscure band from the Czech Republic. Their earliest demos consisted of fairly average Death Metal, having nothing to do with bands like Master's Hammer or Root. Eventually, it appears that they became inspired by the Norwegian Black Metal scene and changed their style. Their 1995 debut album, Barbarians, is a solid offering of uncompromising Black Metal and, despite the utterly ridiculous cover, it is well worth listening to.

Musically, one can hear a lot of Mayhem and Darkthrone influence in the riffs. Much of the material is based on the stripped down style of the early '90s, with fast and cold tremolo riffs over fast drums. The percussion is a little too active, far from the minimalism of Fenriz, though the playing is very tight and accurate. Still, this changes the feeling a little bit and is often one of the issues when a band has shifted to Black Metal from Death Metal. Though many of the songs are fast and intense, Maniac Butcher has no problem to slow things down on occasion and including kind of doom-oriented riffs that seem to hearken back to their demo days. There are some moments where they seem to channel Celtic Frost and even Master's Hammer, and prove to be quite skilled when it comes to including rather memorable solos. In fact, there are a couple used even during faster parts. Here and there, one is even reminded of early Emperor, minus the irritating keyboards. Instead, these guys relied on traditional instruments and strong songwriting in order to create the hellish and black atmosphere found on this album. The vocals are completely inhuman, sounding much more like a rabid animal. This helps to bring a sense of urgency to the music, especially with the frenetic drumming and fast-picked riffs. There is an epic quality to some of the melodies and you really get the feeling that nothing here is done just for the hell of it. Every idea has some meaning and manages to create a dark or menacing vibe. Some of the most memorable riffs are on "Druhé Stvoření", which are somewhat similar to Darkthrone's "Quintessence" (released that same year), though executed differently and including a rather haunting solo. In fact, this may be one of the best songs on here, showcasing the various elements of the band's sound.

The production is fairly decent. This obviously does not have a plastic, modern sound. Still, the drums are a little too clear and some parts are mixed a bit higher than they should be. It is not a severe problem, but it does take away from the riffs, slightly. As for the guitars, the tone is raw and cold and pretty standard for the time period. It could have benefited from being a little more harsh, but there is nothing really wrong with it as it is. The vocals are easily heard and don't seem to have much effects, such as reverb. The sound is very dry and strained.

Barbarians is a very solid album of Czech Black Metal. More than just another band that were quick to embrace and replicate the northern style, Maniac Butcher proves very capable of creating a strong, dark atmosphere. The only real complaint is that the album is so short, lasting just half an hour. Such would be tedious if the band was only churning out tenth-rate music, but this is too good to end so soon. If you haven't heard this band, it is recommended that you seek this out.
 
(30 Sept. 2013)

 
 

Released in 1996, Lučan-Antikrist is the second full-length album from the Czech Black Metal band Maniac Butcher. Anyone familiar with these guys should know what to expect, as there are never any surprises from them. However, if you are new to Maniac Butcher and ran screaming (or laughing) when you saw the cover art, one can only insist that you do not judge this by the horrible aesthetics. While they have been responsible for some of the most ridiculous album covers in Black Metal history, they know how to deliver when it gets down to the music, which is the most important thing.

Regarding the songwriting, this continues on from where Barbarians left off. It is not the most original work in existence, nor does it have to be. What one can expect to hear on this record is solid mid-90s Black Metal with a lot of influence from the north, especially with the dominance of cold tremolo riffs. The guitar melodies of "Zrada" are ice-cold and enough to freeze you even on a warm day. Most of the songs are rather fast-paced, particularly the guitars. The drumming is a bit too varied for my taste, with a frequent double-bass that sometimes drives the songs forward, rather than primitive blasting. As well, there seem to be less of the solo work that was present on Barbarians, removing one of the more positive elements of their sound. The vocals are very strained and most of the lines drag out across the riffs, quite a bit. His voice has a lot of desperation to it, at times, and the fact that the lyrics are in Czech adds a different dimension to the music. Not nearly as known as they should be, Maniac Butcher was one of the bands that did a good job in keeping a more pure style of Black Metal alive during a time when so many bands were experimenting and turning against what this music was supposed to be. The riffs are as intense as the vocals, something that is often missed by some bands. They go for the basic style without putting forth any intensity. "Lučané" is a good example of this, and even includes an eerie solo bit. The cold and gloomy atmosphere that is present, such as during the slower parts of "Poslední Bitva", is a direct contrast to the hordes of idiots that were abusing synth to a criminal degree, or those that were mixing in other forms of music that had no place being associated with this.

The production is fairly strong and not as hollow as on the previous effort. Compared to some albums of the time period, it might be considered somewhat clean, in a sense. This is definitely more comparable to Marduk's Those of the Unlight, as opposed to an album like Under A Funeral Moon. The guitars possess a cold sound that suits the music well. The drums are a weak point, with sometimes-clicky double-bass that is more distracting that anything. Otherwise, the mix is pretty good and the focus remains on the melodies and the vocals, more or less.

Lučan-Antikrist is a really decent record and is recommended for anyone into mid-90s Black Metal. There are a couple of weak spots, but nothing bad. It does somewhat work against the album that the hidden bonus track (a cover of the Master's Hammer song "Jáma Pekel") outshines some of the original material. Overall, this is very much worth listening to. If you have never heard Maniac Butcher, this is as good of a place to start as any.
 
(7 Jan. 2014)

 
 

Krvestřeb is the third full-length from Maniac Butcher, released in 1997. This album continues from where the last one leaves off, more or less. However, there are a few elements that work against it. While the basic style is unchanged, it is lacking consistency and is rather mediocre compared to their previous albums.

The production is slightly cleaner than on Lučan-Antikrist. The hollowness from Barbarians is back, but the overall sound is just a bit too clear. The bass, which is rather pointless on this album, sticks out at times. The drumming is too high in the mix and only puts more emphasis on the fact that the drums feature more fills and so on than are needed. For some reason, the guitar doesn't feel as though it is the complete center of attention and is bereft of the coldness that was present just a year earlier.

Further lowering this album's potential is the overlong keyboard intro. These guys avoid using such things during the actual songs, yet made the poor choice to waste the first few minutes of the record with synth nonsense. The alien elements persist, with the clean guitar intro to "Píseň Černých Vran", which doesn't really fit into the rest and is even more awkward with the vocal performance that accompanies it. Maniac Butcher was never purely one-dimensional, but this album shows even more variation than before, with the slower riffs on the first song and the weaker mid-tempo sections during the second track, "Oči Oběti". Its faster moments are among the more enjoyable on the release, but the momentum is repeatedly interrupted. All in all, the songwriting is rather standard for this band, with a decent amount of faster riffs that carry things forward. It still lacks in intensity, somehow, perhaps due to the cleaner sound and the mid-paced interludes (such as in "Smrt Nepravým"). Even the guitar melodies, themselves, lack the conviction and darkness that existed on their earlier albums. The title track is a good example of this.

All in all, Krvestřeb isn't a bad album. It's just not a good one, either. Maniac Butcher was capable of more than this, as evidenced by the albums that came before. In general, this is a band that doesn't get enough recognition for their work, but this is probably the last record that I would advise anyone to get, especially if they are new to the band.
 
(16 Jan. 2014)

Cerná Krev (1998)
 

Hailing from the Czech Republic, Maniac Butcher are well-known for a grim style of Black Metal that takes a lot of cues from their northern predecessors, as well as some influence from the likes of Master's Hammer. Anyone familiar with the band has a general sense of expectation whenever exploring a new album, as Barbarud and Vlad were very consistent with their songwriting. This hold true for their fourth full-length, released in 1998, Cerná Krev.

One of the first things that one might notice is that the production is slightly improved from the last offering. Without being overly plastic or soulless, Krvestřeb was still too over-produced for this type of music. Cerná Krev appears to correct some of the mistakes, with a more cohesive sound. The drums are not quite as hollow and distracting as the last time around, though they could still be buried a little more in the mix. The guitars have a cold and thin tone, really suitable to the compositions.

Regarding the songwriting, this record contains over half an hour of rather straightforward Black Metal. The vocals are raw and often tormented, sounding like they are emanating from a shredded throat. This is quite appropriate, as the guitar riffs are razor-sharp and hearken back to the classic Norwegian albums from the likes of Darkthrone and Mayhem. There are even certain shared sensibilities with early Gorgoroth, especially as it relates to the guitar melodies. There is a good dynamic with the somewhat epic riffs contrasting with more urgent and intense ones, though the difference is subtle enough that it may not be perceptible by all. It is a shame that the song titles are not only in Czech, but that they are so lengthy, as it is rather difficult to identify the tracks by anything other than their numbers. The exception to this is the much more ethereal "Intermezzo", which slows things down and creates an atmosphere of almost calming darkness with more melodic riffs and use of a somewhat introspective clean guitar. After the blistering aural assault of the previous three songs, this instrumental is somewhat necessary.

Following this, the album shifts back into high gear with intense riffs that would make Euronymous proud. Despite the obvious influences, by this point in their career, Maniac Butcher definitely had a sound that was easily identifiable. There is a certain dreariness that creeps into some of the tremolo melodies that serves as their mark. Track five is the first proper composition to feature any really noticeable tempo changes. The added dynamics do take away from the momentum built up by the initial parts of the track, but this is followed by an even faster section that is almost reminiscent of early Dark Funeral, before the main riff returns. The next song adopts a slower pace, building on the somewhat sombre feeling established in the second half of the album. The effort is a little hampered by the overactive drumming (which would not be as bad if it were lower in the mix). There are certain times when drummers should realize that less is more and that the guitars should be allowed more room to breathe and to create atmosphere, without so many fills and extra bits tossed in without reason. There is a Gorgoroth vibe as the song speeds up, but it is not done exceptionally well.

Cerná Krev is strong album from this Czech Black Metal band and is an improvement over the previous record. While there are some average parts, the majority of the material is very solid and does well to continue the traditions that were established in the earlier part of the decade, while also putting their own stamp on it. The rawness and intensity shown by this band really put most of their contemporaries to shame and Maniac Butcher deserves all the more respect for keeping this style alive at a time when so many despicable bands were clogging up the scene. If you are sick of all of the current trendy releases and want something much more in line with the classics, this is very much recommended.
 
(26 Dec. 2014)
















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