It's been said that if something ain't broke, don't fix it. Well, the saying never mentioned anything about not tweaking something. Slechtvalk's previous album Falconry was a solid, dark metal album created by one man, Shamgar. It received very good reviews almost everywhere, including this e-zine. The big problem for most people though was the use of a drum machine, that just doesn't give a band power like a real drummer. This time around, Shamgar has enlisted the assistance of five new members - Nath, Ohtar, Fionnghuala, Sorgier, and Grimbold - and the result is astounding! The War that Plagues the Lands is an incredible concept album that ranks right up there with some of the best bands in the genre. I seriously think that I've listened to this new disc more time already in the couple months I've had it then I listened to Falconry combined, and I've had it for over a year.
The guitars are brought forward much more on this disc and the keyboards, while still a vital part, are pushed back in the mix allowing for a much more extreme sound. Vocally, Shamgar has improved greatly with some horrifying blackish shrieks. It seems like the biggest improvement is that he's upped the aggression factor in his vocals. Also present are some occasional death growls, eerie chanting, and some beautifully haunting female vocals. All of the different vocals are placed perfectly in every instance and never sound forced.
Musically, the band never settles for one sound as the songs range from blistering, to mid-paced, to slow and somber; all fitting nicely and creating an extremely dark atmosphere with a very cohesive feel. My favorite tunes on this CD are "A Dragon's Children" (off the split w/Kekal), "And Thus It Burns", and "Of Slumber and Death". But really, there is not a downer on the whole album. If all this wasn't enough, the production, packaging and artwork are top notch.
When classic black metal releases are mentioned in the future, this disc will stand tall right alongside masterpieces like Horde's Hellig Usvart and Antestor's The Return of the Black Death. Fear Dark Records is once again proving that they settle for nothing less than high quality when choosing what bands release music on their label.