Antestor - _The Return of the Black Death_
(Cacophonous, 1998)
by: Alex Cantwell (9.5 out of 10)
After a little confusion regarding the availability of this disc, I obtained it at long last. I slowly grew to appreciate the sound of Norway's Antestor when I first heard their tracks on the _Northern Lights_ compilation, in which they incorporated a combination of slow and plodding rhythms, droning keyboard passages, and black metal stylings. With 1997's _Martyrium_, which was never officially released (although I have had the privilege of hearing it) due to legal hassles with then label Morphine Records, Antestor, for the most part, took a headlong plunge into black metal, but still retained the ominous keyboards and doomy riffs. _The Return of the Black Death_ finds the band in their finest form yet, combining all of the above elements with a new ferociousness, and with crystal clear clarity. This album reminds me of why I was attracted to black metal in the first place, as it is rich with all of the elements that make up the genre, which is also why I chose to give it such a high rating -- as black metal albums go, this one is all-inclusive and all-encompassing. _TRotBD_ gives me a cold feeling, much like Ulver's _The Madrigal of Night_ and Enslaved's _Blodhemn_ did. My favorite track is "Kilden -- Lik En Endelos Elv", which has a lot of speed and is played with chords very high up on the guitar neck, then sweeps into an atmospheric ether, and back again into the speedy parts. "Kongsblod" is a close second, as it features an awesome "war metal" riff and ends with the guitars somehow sounding like bagpipes! "Sorg" and "Ancient Prophecy" are the slowest, doomiest tracks, giving the keyboards a lead role, while "Gamlelandet" and "The Bridge of Death" are built upon speed. After many listens, I still cannot contain my zeal for this release. Even with all of the fury and speed of the totally ripping black metal parts, the keyboards are very prominent in several songs; so much so that it would be safe to say that if you do not like keyboards in your metal, you will not like Antestor. It is interesting, I think, that they never do quite get up to full speed -- there are no blast beats at all, but among the sombre atmospheres that run throughout, those one-two beats seem awfully fast. Point taken and mission accomplished, guys. I would definitely recommend this release to fans of Enslaved, Astarte, and even Skepticism.

Contact: Cacophonous Records, 231 Portobello Road

(article published 19/5/1999)

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