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Enter the Sea of Flames (2002)

Morrigan rose from the ashes of Mayhemic Truth, a band that anyone in the German underground should be familiar with. With their second full-length, Enter the Sea of Flames, the band put forth a solid effort to continue carrying on the spirit of Bathory, as their music is a mix of the various styles that band implemented. Released in 2002, this was hardly very necessary as Quorthon, himself, had returned with Nordland I and did a much better job of resurrecting his vision of Viking metal than any pretenders could ever hope to do.

Enter the Sea of Flames can be compared to Blood Fire Death in a way. Just like the fourth Bathory album, this features faster black/thrash songs mixed in with some mid-paced tracks with more of a Viking metal feel. Of course, given that the album came so late, any impact that most of this would have had is totally destroyed right out of the gate. The faster songs are rather obsolete and somewhat boring. The song title "Come on Bitch, Be My Victim" is a bit of a turn-off as well. I may be a little biased, since the first track I heard was "Anam Cara", which is mid-paced and possesses a very epic and doom-like atmosphere. This was right after the album came out and, for four years, I'd imagined the rest of the music to be similar. When I finally found it, I was quite disappointed. Nonetheless, there are some good tunes, here. The aforementioned epic makes good use of clean vocals, for over half the song, adding a very sombre feeling. His voice sounds like someone who is nearly drained of life, calling out from the woeful darkness, one final time. "Beyond the Green Hills" is very similar to "Anam Cara", with mournful clean vocals accentuating the melancholic guitar melodies. "To Honour the Brave" is yet another slower track, though completely ripping off "Valhalla" from Hammerheart. Morrigan must not have been aware that Quorthon was about to release two of the most monumental albums of his career, thus their efforts to continue on in his place were unnecessary. "Thy Ravens Lay" is an odd track, seeming like a mixture between "Blood and Iron" from Twilight of the Gods and (oddly enough) "Dreams of Blood and Iron" from Marduk's Nightwing. It definitely could have been better.

The production is not very good. By that, I don't mean that it is not professional enough. Rather, it doesn't suit the music as well as it could. The differing styles of songwriting may have something to do with this. They had to remain consistent throughout the whole album, as far as the sound is concerned, so they were not able to perfectly accommodate either approach. It's pretty raw and gritty, though there is some slightly modern feel that can't be shaken from the faster songs. There is no way to hide that these primitive tracks were recorded fifteen or twenty years too late. The sound does more justice to the slower songs, as such a style does not really necessitate such a grim production. It is clear enough that the various elements can all be appreciated; i.e. acoustic bits and clean backing vocals. Thankfully, the clean vocals are kept just low enough to melt into the rest, without soaring overtop everything and overshadowing the music. This way, they serve to accentuate whatever atmosphere the instruments are creating.

All in all, this is a rather decent album. The good songs definitely outweigh the bad and make it worth the time to investigate this L.P. Enter the Sea of Flames is not perfect, but it shows a band that is quite capable of achieving most of their intended goals. There is nothing all that original here, though they do lend a bit of their own identity to the overt worship of Quorthon's musical style. A little more time and effort could have made this a much stronger album. As it is, this doesn't even match up to fellow German members of the Bathory Hordes, Nachtfalke. Either way, for those into Viking-era Bathory, this is something that you will certainly want to check out, even if but for a few songs.
(23 Jan. 2013)

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