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Blackthorn - Codex Archaos
CD Reviews
Written by Doctor T.   
Friday, 10 February 2012
Blackthorn CD Review
Codex Archaos
Blackthorn - Codex Archaos

 

CD Info
2011
MSR Productions
12 Tracks
Russian, German, Italian & English Lyrics

 

 

This is the second major release, at least, with English lyrics, for the Russian band Blackthorn, and it’s hard to top the first one, even though that wasn’t their first release, there was at least one purely Russian release previous to that one. But, we’ve waited a while for this one, and it was worth the wait. I received the package in the mail yesterday, straight from Aina in Moscow. Aina is the vocalist, lyricist and band leader. And clearly, Blackthorn is doing well, the CD was, physically, one of the most impressive packages I have ever seen, great graphics, very professionally done. The previous release had impressed me with its strong English lyrics, so, even before loading the music, I took a look at the new lyrics which are printed, book style, along with those very interesting graphics. And, there appears to be no drop off, although there are lyrics in a variety of languages; Russian, English, German and Italian. Definitely a strong point for me, even though I don’t really understand the Russian. . . but I know people who do. The band has also changed personnel wise, there’s a new base player, Greta, keyboards are handled by both lead guitar player Elvira and several guest musicians, and there’s a truly interesting new drummer, Vareska, who pounds out a killer percussion with a visual flair. And, there’s a full time violinist, Less, who also adds significantly both musically and visually. I don’t generally point to visuals in this arena, there are lots of beautiful women in female fronted metal, or Gothic, however, Blackthorn is a "dramatic" style of music, what they look like, how they perform, is a large part of the act. They’re classified as "witches", I mean, the previous work was actually titled Gossamer Witchcraft, and they play that angle nicely, especially with the graphics in the CD. The music also follows this pattern, although, on this release, there’s far more music than there was on the previous release, strong as that one was musically.

That expansion of the music is truly significant. The previous release was symphonic metal, really good symphonic metal. We still get the symphonic, but the addition of that violin on a full time basis is a major upgrade. Beyond that the vocals have expanded from the soprano sounds of Aina to include brutal vocals from both Aina and Elvira, and they’re really good and well positioned. There’s also a carryover in the use of spoken words at interesting points. But maybe the biggest new development is in the use of a choral component, the Silver Voice of the choral ensemble of the Moscow Conservatory, and there’s nothing I like better than choral components. It really makes this a far larger sound than the previous release; we’re in Therion territory now. And, I would be remiss not to mention the production work, the mixing, the arranging, putting it all together. Some solid work there, very professional sounding final production, you don’t always get this level of excellence, this work is outstanding.

Individual tracks take a variety of directions, there is more diversity in this production than I have heard in a long time, in fact, I can’t recall anything to compare with it across the board. Yes, you get the Aina vocals, but in a variety of formats, you get the strong guitars and the kick ass drumming, but they’re all put together differently on individual tracks. And, on some of them, they’re actually absent altogether. That’s the case on the opening track, Divination in Blood which is one of those classical productions, mainly keyboard based, that serves to set the groundwork for the material to follow. And what follows serves to warn us that eternal darkness will again be the order of the day, as it was on the last production. However, Vehemence Came as Anodyne provides a little more music than what we got in the last CD, you get a little of it in this somewhat limited live production from a Russian performance by the band. The audio may not be high quality, but the video sure leaves little to complain about. And you get a little of that death vocal from Aina, something we were promised for this release and something that, in my opinion, adds significantly to the overall sound of the CD.

But the focus of this work is the DARKNESS. If the World of the Witch doesn’t work for you, stick to Boy band material. This is Demonic Metal of the highest order, you get it in the lyrics, you get it in the music, you get it in the spoken word. It may quite often be beautiful music; Aina has a nice voice when she’s doing a straight soprano. But, if you listen to what’s being discussed, there’s little to suggest a positive interpretation of reality. Aina leads us to the land of doom with an invitation hard to resist:

Oh how easy it’s to / Lead astray a sheep
Without a shepherd / See it is me, your long lost child
Hooking you with arms open wide

And from here, the journey goes straight down, down to the deepest, darkest world of the witch. Good music, yea, but hold close your mortal soul, these depths provide little hope for the weak or the timid. Arria Marcella makes the journey all the more attractive, some of the best music on the CD. We get a beautiful vocal, that strong choral material setting it up, all over a pounding, thundering drum. But, the warning is direct:

Abandon hope / all (ye) who enter me…
Let the part / of this noble body will be
a lid of your sudden sarcophagi
He would applaud / If he had the hands
And he would waltz / If he had the limbs
But he only grins
You are as unwholesome as me

Posthumous Passion Ephemera continues this doomed journey, more lovely vocals, the violin soothes, some choral components. But, our final descent has begun. The vocals become darker; the lovely yields time to the brutal, hope dissipates.

Do not you hear / their dead hearts beat?
Do not you know / on what they feed?

This musical direction continues with Dismalediction and the Remedy. It’s a gradual descent, there’s still beauty abound, the violin continues to offer hope, but its clear our path has been determined. And with Серебряный Ключ (Silver Key) the music itself begins to alter. The song is entirely in Russian, a darker more pronounced music, harsher vocals, even Aina’s soprano takes on a sinister tone. We hear the witch in moments of weakness.

But with Hexshadow Turned to Flesh we recognize the depths. Here even the violin becomes an instrument of the damned. The harsh vocal becomes the order of the day, the witches trade verse in an unholy dialog. The darkest warning is hinted in a cold refrain delivered in harshest tone:

When concentration of the fear
Gets overwhelming you’ll make a desperate dart
For windows, doors / To save yourself
It’s all in vain - / You won’t get out
Alive

. . .and followed up with the witches toying whisper . . .

Before chasing a witch
Check your place in the food chain

. . .and concludes with an unholy laughter from beyond the grave. . . . .

Well, it’s all in good fun, at least we hope so. If not, we’re all in a shitload of trouble. But the music is superb, the emotion runs the gamut. Just keep your Crucifix close and your Bible closer. And get ready for the ride, cause it’s damn sure a 10. My souls in enough trouble already without pissing off a bunch of witches, what else could I give it.

But, I think you’ll come to the same conclusion.

10 / 10

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