Arch of Thorns - Sword of the Spirit

Well, after reviewing Arch of Thorns' last release, I said that I was curious how they would progress.  On this second release - another EP - the band continues with their very underground, grim black metal sound.  When sending in the album to review, the band stated that they are shooting for the underground sound and the production is purposely raw and sub-par.  With most genres I'm gonna say I don't care what you meant to do, but some black metal bands tend to do that purposely, so I'm gonna assume that this is really the way they want it.  To tell you the truth though, it sounds pretty cool.  Very dark and cold and only for hardcore black metal fans...not just fans of more commercial sounding black metal bands like Cradle of Filth.

The album opens with a haunting intro called "Visions of the End."  It's basically some keyboards with bells tolling and metal clanging and human screams.  Good start in my opinion.  Next up is the song "...And the War Begins".  This is where the band storms in with furious black metal that gives you those buzzing/fuzzy guitars, frantic blasting (ala a drum machine), and horrific shrieking vocals.  Just a wall of sound that will annoy anyone not remotely into black metal.  The vocals are combined with some eerie-sounding female vocals near the end.  The next song, "Awakening the Fire Within", is more of the same shredding, lightening fast black metal.  It slows momentarily at the 2:00 mark with soft guitars mixed with more of the female vocals.  About a minute later the raging continues.  Track 4 is a short track with an atmospheric feel with thundering yet distant drums, shrieking vocals, and melodic female vocals.  It serves as a great lead in to the final track, "Sword of the Spirit".  Another wailing black metal tune with freakin' sick vocals.  The song slows down with 30 seconds left to end with soft guitar, fading as the CD closes.

The copy I have of this album is basically just a burn of the regular issue and a photocopied cover.  I've been assured by the band that this is not how the real packaging looks, so I won't comment much on packaging here.  So obviously, I don't have any lyrics to look over.  You can't make out much of the lyrics, but the title track is somewhat decipherable and talks about putting on the armor of God as in Ephesians.

I think overall, I've enjoyed this disc more than Arch of Thorns' first disc.  The songs seem more interesting and even though they use a drum machine, they never go inhumanly fast.  It's fast for sure, but not faster than any human could it sounds believable.  They also make excellent use of female vocals...much like their first EP.  And the black vocals are still very well executed.  Fans of Darkthrone and Horde, and those underground bands with even worse production should dig Arch of Thorns.  I'm not saying this is some top-notch, gotta get at all costs albums, but I've enjoyed it and underground black metal fans should as well.  Maybe soon we'll see a full length from this band.

Rating:  60/100

Review by:  Matt Morrow

Label: SneeuwStorm Produkties

Total Songs: 5

Total Time: 16:05

Tracklisting:  1. Visions of the End (Intro), 2. ...And the War Begins, 3. Awakening the Fire Within, 4. His Eminent Return, 5. Sword of the Spirit.

Best Songs: Tracks 2 and 3.

Band Lineup: Teckmarion - Vocals/Lyrics, Issachar - All Guitars/Keyboards/Drum Programming

Band Website: