Witches Sabbath Productions, 2014
Genre: Black Metal
1. Blood Spilt in the Earth's Viscera
2. Dying Flame of a Pale Sun
A few months after their first demo tape Blood Stronghold returned with two more songs on this 7" vinyl. This EP is limited to 300 hand-numbered copies and I own #292.
Cranking out an EP this soon after your demo is kind of strange and made me wonder why they just didn't wait and include this material, but when you listen to this material you realize it wouldn't really fit. It's strange to say, but the music on here sounds thematically quite different, so I can understand why a separate release was warranted. If you enjoyed "The Immortal Past" this EP advances that style quite a bit. The first song is very beautiful and has more of a melancholic atmosphere compared to the demo. The second song is really different. "Dying Flame of a Pale Sun" starts off with what we'd expect from this project, but then they really up the tempo at some point. This is by far the fastest from this project so far. The vocals also trend more to the usual screaming kind that is normal in Black Metal and I enjoyed this shift quite a bit. The song still maintains a heavy and dense atmosphere like all the others. The only major issue is that with the production this raw with so much reverb, the fast sections feel more chaotic than anything else. There's almost too much going on too fast to really make out all the elements. However, the entire song isn't fast, so for most of the song we have that majestic atmosphere we're looking for.
In the end we have two new excellent tracks and I just hope this projects productivity doesn't run away with them. Naturally, I want more songs and I would love to see a full-length from the project at this point soon, so hopefully they can keep up the quality this high.
Hammerbolt Productions, 2014
Genre: Black Metal
1. Frozen Memory of the Dark Past
2. In the Mists of the Immortal Past
3. Legacy (Of Wolves, War & Thunder)
Blood Stronghold is a bit of a super group considering it's two members have played in quite a lot of projects. The main composer behind the material is from Australia and has done great projects like Eternum and the drummer Krew, has been in so many bands I can't keep track. One of the more well known is Gontyna Kry. In any event when Blood Stronghold released a debut album later in 2014 it went around the web really fast and I wound up back tracking and getting everything else they had put out and I've been a loyal fan ever since. This release was original put out on cassette by Witches Sabbath Records a few months before the CD edition. Since I usually prefer CD's I picked up this version and it comes in a beautiful digipak. The only complaint I have about the design is the font color is so dark you can't really read any of it.
"The Immortal Past" reminds me a lot of Graveland for some reason. It has a very similar feel and pacing to the music, even the vocals are reminiscent of the Rob Darken style. I've heard some great bands inspired by Gravelend, but a lot of times they mostly clone what Rob does and they don't advance it as much. Blood Stronghold is an entirely different approach to the Graveland foundation, in my opinion. Instead of driving down the path of Paganism and keyboard driven atmosphere, Blood Stronghold just sounds so much darker. They draw more on the creations of Atmospheric Black Metal to build their particular musical space. The result is something that just feels entirely different and really advances that core foundation. Quite a few of the old Black Metal bands had this sort of core approach with their mid-paced compositions, and Blood Stronghold bring back a lot of those ideas, but they also push them forward for the modern era. Which might not be their intention... but that's ultimately what they did. One of the things you'll find most interesting is how this project handles the lead guitars, because the lead material feels really different from what we're used to with these rhythm backdrops. It creates a really dense and beautiful atmosphere. The production is extremely raw, so the production snobs of the modern era need not apply. For example, the lead guitars are blended into the rhythms so seamlessly it's hard to tell they're there, but when a rhythm sections stops you can hear it. They don't cut through, they're more subtle in the mix and creating this really interesting texture.
As far as debuts go, this is an excellent first effort, but I would expect that from such experienced musicians that have already been well established. The one and only complaint I can level at this is I'm not big on this vocal approach. The low raspy, mostly talked, Black Metal vocal is fairly uninteresting to me. Whenever someone takes this approach I always wonder what it would be like with a better vocalist. These types of vocals are good for certain parts, but a whole release of them can get boring for me vocally. Luckily the music is so strong the vocals just kind of fade to the background for me. So, if you're a fan of mid-paced atmospheric Black Metal or interested in seeing a new take on that old Polish Pagan style of Black Metal, this is a must hear.