Thursday, June 26, 2014

Flame of War

Flame of War - Long Live Death!
Lower Silesian Stronghold, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Hammer of Ragnarok
2. Lunar Plains
3. The Pulse of the Void
4. The Fates and the Usurper
5. Mare Tenebrarum
6. The Iron Age of Europa

When I saw Flame of War had a new album out, I was immediately excited to get this given how incredible "Transcendence" was. The fact that it was coming from Lower Silesian Stonghold also gave me hope, because they release some great material as well. Another thing that is good about this release is we finally get a nice full booklet for Flame of War. The art is really good and has a lot pictures from a World War I setting, which I really appreciate, because I think a lot of the bands focus more on World War II. Endstille aside, that's kind of their concept and I love that band.

How did this match up against "Transcendence" musically. To be honest, I don't think it really competes. On one hand this is more like an updated "Europa" which is a good thing, but maybe Njord realized he couldn't write music to compete with "Transcendence" again. One thing that does stand out is he's using a session drummer P, who currently plays in Dark Fury and more well known for his Wschód project and the real drums are a very welcome change. It really adds a more organic feel into Flame of War's music. Hopefully he'll stay working with the project for years to come. Njord is still using the two guitar lines that I've wanted him to use, but I'm not sure the core riffing really competes as well as before. Not every song is really spectacular either... parts of "Mare Tenebrarum" drag on a bit more than I would like them to, even though I love the way that song closes. On the other hand "The Fates and the Usurper" is a great song, so this album has a lot of up and down qualities to it. The raw, but still audible production gives this album a really nice edge to it that the other Flame of War albums don't have at all. I had some hope for "The Iron Age of Europe" clocking in at nearly eighteen minutes to, perhaps, be like a song off of "Transcendence", but it fits more acutely with "Long Live Death!". There are parts of this song that remind me of Arckanum though, and that's certainly not a bad thing.

In the end, perhaps my expectations were a bit too high. Or maybe a bit to specific. "Long Live Death!" is a very decent album... but it's no "Transcendence". I feel like this album is a bit too inconsistent in its writing for me to have fallen deeply in love with it. It's not a bad album by any means, but it's also not a spectacular album that makes me want to run out and tell everyone about. I know Flame of War has it in them to craft some incredible music and I would certainly like to see that happen again. I really do like a lot of the direction Njord is trying to take Flame of War and perhaps this is yet another kind of transition for the projects actual growth.

Flame of War - Transcendence
Eastside, 2009
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Transcendence
2. Unity
3. Fate

Wow... what an album. If you said "Transcendence" was going to be the follow-up to "Europa" I probably wouldn't have believed you. Don't be fooled by the three tracks, this album is nearly an hour in length. Every track is just spectacular and it really does transcend the foundation that Njord was trying to lay with the "Europa" album. Another first is that the lyrics are printed in the booklet.

"Transcendence" truly launched Flame of War into the rank of Atmospheric Black Metal, I really feel like this the direction Njord was trending in from the earliest recordings I've heard. Remember my major complaint on "The Flames are Rising" about there needing to be a second guitar to really make his music sound majestic... well "Transcendence" finally adds that necessary step into the mix. Each track just builds and builds and finally culminates with the incredible "Fate", which is by far the best song on this album. While the usual roots of Burzum are strong with Flame of War, "Transcendence" feels more like Njord is stepping out on his own. Each song is crafted with such care to evoke an immersive experience that you just don't want to let this album go once you've heard it.

I'm really looking forward to what Flame of War has in store for us next. It's taken them a while for them to craft something this magnificent, but it was truly worth the wait. "Transcendence" is an album that is definitely on my list of must have releases. If you really like that somber and soaring Atmospheric Black Metal then "Transcendence" is really the album you're looking for.

Flame of War - Europa; Or, the Spirit Among the Ruins
Under the Sign of Garazel, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

1. Heathen Mysticism Pt. I
2. Imperium
3. Spirit Among the Ruins
4. Ragnarok - Beholding  the Inevitable
5. Long Live Death!
6. Heathen Mysticism pt. II

After a fairly lacklustre debut, I was honestly up for anything with Flame of War releasing their first album on CD. The fact that it was being done under the care of Under the Sign of Garazel gave me quite a bit of hope for this project. I'm actually quite pleased to report that "Europa" is a far superior product! Even though Strzygon has given up his vocal duties, leaving only Njord to handle them, this release is still a vast improvement. Even though we have more a booklet this time, there are just a few pictures of landscapes and graves, but not much beyond that.

It's kind of surprising the difference a year can make for some musicians. Njord's composition level has improved dramatically. He's starting to craft riffs that work quite well for a much longer duration of play. I'm no longer checking the clock while the minutes click by as I wait for the song to move on. However, this is all that has really been improved upon. The music still feels a little one dimensional with the focus on only one guitar line, but with the far superior riffs I'm not going to complain that much. I'm sure other people will find this boring and derivative, citing Burzum as having primary claim. Maybe that's true... but "Europa" is still a pretty decent album. Flame of War actually have a tangible atmosphere this time and it is quite epic and melancholic for the majority of the release. Flame of War is a slow moving contemplative band meant to immerse the listener in their craft. The huge improvement with "Europa' is that I can actually get immersed and lost in their riffs this time around. That wasn't true before. Just listen to that closing riff of "Long Live Death!"... simply magnificent. I have even higher hopes for Flame of War after hearing this. I will definitely be eagerly awaiting their next release to see if further improvements develop.

I think this is a release that will be lost on a large portion of the Black Metal scene. I think the long tracks and epic structuring will bore the more impatient listeners of the genre. I also think a lot of people will find this material highly derivative of other bands, but that certainly doesn't stop this from being a very fine release. It's a very unfortunate by-product of people always wanting the next new thing... oh well, I quite enjoyed "Europa". It's a great album for a "quiet" day or slow moving activity. Despite the band name, "Europa" is not an in your face release, instead it serves the draw the listener in.

Flame of War - The Flames are Rising
Werewolf Promotions, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

1. Płomień Wojny
2. Ancient Code of Life
3. Pod Sztandarem Peruna
4. Kurhany
5. Kurhany
6. Nawia
7. Beyond

After two demo tapes, which I can't find anywhere, Flame of War is prepared to release their debut full-length. It doesn't feel too different from a demo as it's only a cassette edition limited to 200 hand-numbered copies, of which I own #53... or maybe #59 it's kind of hard to read this one. It comes with a small booklet and the cassette is a dubbed tape with stickers. The reason I found out about this project is the member Njord would eventually join Dark Fury, which is a band I've enjoyed for a while now.

I wish I could say "The Flames are Rising" is a wonderful album, but I have to be honest and say that it is only okay. I think Flame of War have some potential and they do manage to create some decent atmosphere in parts of this album. Unfortunately, the majority of the riffing comes across as fairly generic. It's almost reminiscent of the late 90's phase of Black Metal, where everything started to feel overdone. I feel like this suffers from a lot of other problematic bands, if you just added a second guitar lead to enhance the rhythm section you'd have some great material on your hands. Unfortunately, this never seems to be realized. The underlying rhythms are actually quite good, but if you put a lead guitar over them, they would really transcend in terms of the atmosphere. This material really gets daunting due to the track length. There are songs on here that clock in at over ten minutes and the same kind of Burzum riff over and over can get a little tedious after a while. This isn't always a bad thing when done really well, but the riffs aren't strong enough to hold up that kind of repetition, unfortunately.

I think Flame of War has serious potential, because the overall backdrop of the music is really spectacular. But it really needs a little something more to truly come into its own. We'll see what manifests with future releases concerning this project, but for now they are only producing something mediocre.

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