Alastor - _Silva Nordica_
(Ashen Productions, 2006)
by: James Montague (4.5 out of 10)
According to my Internet research, Alastor was the avenging spirit of Greek mythology and the chief executioner of hell in Christian demonology. I guess his cross-cultural association with evil and cruelty explains why about five million rock and metal bands have adopted the name. However, it is somewhat baffling that this Austrian trio chose the moniker Alastor when by this stage better known Portuguese and Polish thrash troupes and an American rock band had already co-opted the title. And that's not the only level on which the Austrian Alastor seems uncertain of their identity: after releasing an EP called _Anal Cult_ with highly pornographic cover photo back in 2004, they return in 2006 with an LP featuring artwork and song titles highly reminiscent of Carpathian Forest's _Black Shining Leather_. Having said this, the music is neither porno grind nor a rip-off of the perverted Norwegian entity. Rather, it seems a mixture of Graveland's jangling guitars, Funeral Oration's watered-down progressive slant and latterday Satyricon's insipid stop-start riffs and annoying dry throat vocals. In other words, occasionally promising but ultimately mediocre.

The major weak point of _Silva Nordica_ is its lack of emphasis. I noticed that the band thanks a third party in the liner notes for his help with arrangements, an uncommon modus operandi in underground metal. Perhaps they should have gone the conventional route and avoided the lengthy, incoherent songs we have here. There are some good melodic riffs running through the mix, but they're awkwardly juxtaposed with some rather crappy oscillating melodies that could have been the work of a pop idol if played on a keyboard. The songs don't really build up to anything and seem trapped by certain unwritten rules of the genre: (1) black metal songs become epic if they last more than seven minutes, and (2) a true composer will always bring his piece full circle so that the opening melody is revisited in the coda, even if said melody was a pile of shit and is tacked on the end with no thought given to dynamics (see the third track "Falckhenstain", which falls to pieces in the finale after a promising first four minutes).

Perhaps the band's weak songwriting would have been boosted by a stronger production, but the clear yet insubstantial sound of _Silva Nordica_ leaves the musicians exposed to the elements and the cruellest of music critics. I could have been harsher myself, but I can see the future potential of an (Austrian) Alastor that learns the joys of concision and clarity of vision. Hope springs eternal!


(article published 18/2/2007)

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