Inspell - _Fairy-tales: Chapter One_
(Little Norway Productions, 2003)
by: James Montague (5 out of 10)
Does a black metal band that releases an album called _Fairy-tales_ -- containing song titles like "The Brave Tin Soldier" and "The Little Match-seller" -- deserve a fair review? The devil on my right shoulder urges me to launch into a rant about black metal's essence being raped by power metal fantasia; the devil disguised as an angel on my left shoulder compels me to judge each case on its merits. The left shoulder wins, and I must confess that within the constraints of beautified, emasculated, keyboard-drenched, melodic black metal, Inspell (right shoulder: "Look at the name! Come ON, man!!") are doing pretty well.

The first thing these Bulgarians have done right is to recognise that black metal -- even black metal about Little Red Riding Hood -- is a form of metal music, and therefore guitars and drums are integral. The lead guitars are scratchy in the typical early-'90s Norwegian style, but the solid rhythm guitar and bass give the songs impetus, while the drumming is an energetic driving force. The vocalist rasps away in the usual way, and when all is said and done, the metal component of this album is quite well done.

Of course, in this bastardised form of black metal, the metal must be smothered in sweet keyboard melodies, mostly in the form of admirable piano and sickly, squeaky violins (blech!). In certain places -- such as the five-part "The Snow Queen" -- these extra ingredients are mixed into the songs creatively, and add to the flavour. In other songs, such as "The Little Ida's Flowers" (ye gads! What a title!), the keyboards are sprinkled indiscriminately like so much excess parsley in a pretentious modern yuppie restaurant.

The album concludes with a Styx cover, so there's no way I could possibly like it. But I can admire the band's skill and songwriting, and can recommend Inspell to people who think that Darkthrone is just shitty garage rock and that Cradle of Filth were the real pioneers of black metal.

Contact: c/o Nikolay Velev, PO Box 296, Blagoevgrad 2700, Bulgaria

(article published 16/2/2004)

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