Monday, March 23, 2015


Faagrim & Zwartplaag - United Wolfish Hordes
Thor's Hammer Productions, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Die Zeit der Wintersonnenwende
3. Mein Pakt mit dem Wolf
4. Flamme empoer (Sieg oder Walhall)
5. Pagan Brotherhood
6. Intro/Renewed Vision of War
7. Black Visions of Hate
8. Wolventyrant

Side Faagrim: ...coming eventually...
Side Zwartplaag:

After hearing the new songs on "Haatstorm" I was looking forward to hearing the all new material for this split. Sadly this is the last recording Zwartplaag would ever produce before breaking up. It truly is a sad thing, since the material they were making was only getting stronger as time went on.

The material here certainly continues what was started with "Haatstorm", but it feels a lot more refined and the riffs are much stronger this time around. The drum production and overall mixing is a lot more balanced as well. It truly is a shame the project was put to end after this, because they were, surely, onto something much bigger had they continued. There are very few bands that play a simpler form of the late 90's style that interest me these days, but Zwartplaag has managed to make the music interesting and thus has a certain level of maturity to their writing. I think this is what really separates them from the other bands that immediately give off the feel of "I've heard this a million times already", even though some that can be attributed to their sound, I think they pull it off with a far stronger appeal and this sets them above the rest in many ways.

Zwartplaag - Haatstorm
Heidens Hart, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Forgotten Tower of the Moon
3. Countess of Blood
4. Nachtkwaad
5. Last Stronghold of Eternal Hate
6. Imperial Death March
7. Winds of Desecration and Lust
8. Den Plaag Geleden
9. Haatstorm
10. Outro

This is one of the times where I must stand corrected in my original assessment of the demo. Apparently Heidens Hart heard something in this band that I didn't. When I saw a lot of the songs from "Nachtwaad" appear on their full-length, I was a bit skeptical, but, wow, they translated quite well to a studio performance. Naturally, I found the newer songs stronger and I wish they had made more of those rather than focus on re-recording the demo below.

To be honest, this was the first material I heard from Zwartplaag and I did quite enjoy it immediately. Even though "Haatstorm" would be considered far more simplistic, but the riffing style struck something with me. It reminded me a lot of the later 90's style Black Metal that was out. I hear a lot of material like Isegrim or a lot of other material put out by Last Episode. I know there is a decent amount of Black Metal fans out there that did not enjoy that label, and to some degree I can understand why, a lot of the bands they produced were overly simplistic and the music had this rather "samey" feel as we listened to it. There are large tracks that feel rather dry, but for some reason "Haatestorm" feels a lot stronger than that. Opening the booklet and seeing one of the members wearing a Funeral Winds shirt comes as no surprise and perhaps that influence makes this a bit stronger. Even though there is a focus on just one guitar rhythm and no interplay of layering, Zwartplaag's debut still manages to pull off a solid sound. The only major complaint I could have is the drum production. It's almost "too triggered" and the drums sound like an e-kit, which they may have used. That's really the one thing that mars their rather raw feel. The vocals are heavily reverbed, which comes as no surprise and a minor complaint is that they are a bit loud in the mix, but not so loud that they totally take over the music.

This isn't the best thing I've ever heard, by no stretch of the imagination, but I really enjoyed this for what it is. It's a primitive old school style of Black Metal, and while others may find it a bit contrived, I think a large portion of the riffing is strong enough to stand up to this kind of criticism. If you enjoyed some of the bands I referenced above, then you may want to check out Zwartplaag.

Zwartplaag - Nachtkwaad
Heidens Hart, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Forgotten Tower of the Moon
3. The Last Stronghold of Eternal Hate
4. Interlude
5. Nachtkwaad
6. Outro

This is Zwartplaag's third demo and I highly doubt I'll be able to track down any earlier releases. Indeed, I believe I am lucky enough to have tracked this down rather recently. "Nachtkwaad" was released on cassette to an unknown limitation of hand-numbered copies and I have #206. Some copies come with a read cover, while others are the cover above in black and white.

Zwartplaag's demo is merely okay to me. It opens with keyboards that are very reminiscent of the old Dungeon Synth style performed by Mortiis, and I actually really liked this throwback feel. It's fairly generic Black Metal, but this is extremely common with a lot of newly formed bands. I think I was hoping the music would be a little more interesting by the time the third demo rolled around, but some bands take a while to brew a more interesting take on what has already been done. "Nachtkwaad" is not a bad demo, but it's certainly nothing new. The guitar riffs are heavily rooted in tradition, there is no fresh take on a differing blend. The drums sound programmed, but nothing is stated about this on the release... this would sort of make sense though since it lists Onmensch as doing everything except vocals. Perhaps this standard fair approach to Black Metal is why I never originally found this demo, because the project never really tore through the scene back then. It was only on the later material that we see some really nice stuff shine through.

I would class "Nachtkwaad" as not really a necessary listen, there are many bands who play this style and many who have done it a little better. "Nachtkwaad" shows that Zwartplaag can certainly meet the standard of what has come before... but the real question is will they be able to build something more into their sound to make it truly their own or play an atmosphere that feels extremely well done.

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