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Stronghold - Prayers from a Yearning Heart

Wow, ok this seriously has to be some of the best black metal I've ever heard. Most of the music falls into the mid-tempo category with some definite doom metal elements. The lone member of this group is Eirik Hellem Bo, ex bass player of the mighty Antestor with mixer, producer, and masterer Kjartan Vestvik on the synths.

The second track is called "Praise."  It starts off quite slowly building a creepy atmosphere.  If you've heard the Martyrium album by Antestor then you know what I'm talking about. Eirik is a really good vocalist sporting some raspy black metal vocals that fit the mood of the song (and the whole album) perfectly. Its hard to believe that one person can make something sound so sorrowful and yet make the listener feel uplifted at the same time.

Next up is "Tears."  It wastes no time in its quest to obliterate you with some double kick drumming and killer guitars. Eirik's voice then crashes through your speakers with conviction and power. No matter how hard I try I can't help but headbang to this track as its quite a bit faster than the rest of the disc. I can definitely hear some Extol influences off of their Burial album. The vocalists both have a lot of aggression in their voices and sound quite similar at times, although I'd say Peter Espevoll has better range than Eirik. A very strong track lyrically as well saying how Jesus' death has set us free.

The last track is "In Strongest Arms."  The beginning of this song is just drenched with emotion with some melancholy guitars and keyboards. After about a minute some fast guitar work and drumming tears through your head. This song brings to mind Antestor's newest album The Forsaken and perhaps even Opeth with the progressive feel preferring to slowly bludgeon the listener instead of doing so instantaneously. Another great track lyrically describing the crippling pain of depression, but also stating that the "light" can take its place.

All in all a solid black metal album, although the 5 songs leaves me craving for more. Production is quite solid although it sounded really good on my Discman, but played rather poorly on my computer speakers. The artwork is fairly simple although I love the picture on the front of the grimy hand holding barbed wire. So if your a fan of Antestor or old Extol I would highly recommend picking up this disc if you haven't done so already.

Rating: 90/100 

Review By: Joel Hemmerling 

Label: Nordic Mission

Total Songs: 5 

Total Time: 35:46 

Tracklisting: 1. Prayer of the Yearning, 2. Praise, 3. Tears, 4. Lament, 5. In Strongest Arms 

Best Songs: 3 & 5 

Band Lineup: Eirik Hellem Bo - all guitars, bass, drums, and vocals, Kjartan Vestvik - synths 

Band Website: N/A