The Black – Alongside Death

the black - alongside deathMany hail “The Priest of Satan” as a 2nd gen, black metal classic. Mostly known for Jon Nodtveit’s involvement in the band during the mid 90’s, The Black to me was always enjoyable, but pretty derivative of the Swedish BM aesthetic. The cult vibe was there in Nodtveidt’s eerie synth work and the songs rang through with conviction and the necessary atmosphere, but I always found more worth and power in Dissection (even though both entities sound nothing alike). The Black’s lack of material throughout the years left them feeling like a one off project, more so than a full fledged band trying to refine their songwriting abilities as they forge onward. 14 years have passed since the debut and time has found The Black adopting more of a hateful, if not chaotic, modern black metal sound. Fans of Gorgoroth take note, for the churning clarity in the guitars and overall sharpness in tone is a similar breed of predator. The riff work however, is noticeably more complex and hard to initially grasp. By adding in this stylistic element to embrace this newer era of black metal, The Black have shunned any sort of atmosphere and creepiness that once was a part of their sound. Even though I’ve spun this CD several times and don’t mind some of the tracks (“Death Throes” and “A Contract Written in Ashes” are both standouts with their slower tempos and actual feeling in the riff work), the production just feels too clean. Too perfect. Too much emphasis on precision has entered this bands formula and severely neutered the overall concept of what The Black started out as. “Alongside Death” is definitely a sharp listen, one that begins to make more sense as one becomes accustomed to the songs, but really too many years of excellent black metal have come and gone for this CD to come off as anything more than “decent”. Too little, too late? –Marty

Pulverised Records

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~ by martyworm on September 5, 2009.

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