Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: Countess - The Gospel of the Horned One

Countess is one of the most underground black metal bands that haven't quite achieved the recognition that they've deserved. Having began in 1992, they've contributed some of the most influential music during their reign despite being surrounded by mediocre and bad reviews. At the point in time of recording The Gospel of the Horned One, Countess were a three piece group consisting of Orlok on vocals and bass, Vercingetorix on drums and keyboards and Zenon on guitar. What exactly does this debut release from Countess sound like, and should it be in your record collection?

Genre: Black Metal
Label: Thurisaz
Release Date: August, 1993
  1. Overture
  2. Highland Victory
  3. Doomed to Die
  4. Full Moon Baptism
  5. Crossing the Fires of Darkness
  6. Under the Sign of the Celtic Cross
  7. Kneel Before the Master's Throne
  8. March of the Clans
Total Playtime: 43 minutes, 02 seconds









Rating: 7.5/10




Countess is one of the most underground black metal bands that haven't quite achieved the recognition that they've deserved. Having began in 1992, they've contributed some of the most influential music during their reign despite being surrounded by mediocre and bad reviews. At the point in time of recording The Gospel of the Horned One, Countess were a three piece group consisting of Orlok on vocals and bass, Vercingetorix on drums and keyboards and Zenon on guitar. What exactly does this debut release from Countess sound like, and should it be in your record collection?

The album begins promisingly with an eerie, hellish introduction that uses various synthesized sounds, such as metallic scraping and malevolent keyboards; these synthetic ingredients, especially within "Full Moon Baptism", are preludes to the early prison works of Burzum which actually didn't come along until the late 90's. These elements reappear sparingly throughout the material, giving it a detailed malicious cult aura that is surpassed by few others of the era. The macabre atmosphere is further endorsed by a surrounding raw production quality that embellishes the content with a grainy sound, but without the overabundance of static that's so well associated with this time period of early black metal. It's easy to hear that the simplistic compositions within aren't exactly tight or by any means well performed, but are rather excruciatingly unkempt. While this seems to be the breaking point for most listeners, this incredulous flaw actually gives the material a certain appeal that any other record would instantly fail from.


The primary make up of The Gospel of the Horned One are onslaughts of repetitive high treble guitar rhythms that are mostly composed of simple power chord progressions. Each track has its own unique guitar hook that implants itself effortlessly into the mind of the listener, however some of these compositions are elongated for vast periods of time and become slightly tedious; most notably in the nine minute song "Highland Victory". The large abundance of treble is somewhat offset by deep thumps from the bass, which follows the pace and fret changes of the guitar compositions. Although there is a high repetition factor in the material, the guitar often breaks away into extremely provoking medieval style acoustics, slightly jazzy bridges and lightly distorted picking. Occasionally there are solos overlaid on the material, which are simplistic in skill as they consist of fast string strumming and some fret changes.

There are some powerful drumming sections located throughout the material, such as the tribal effort in "Highland Victory" and the passionate blast beats of "Doomed to Die". The general majority of drum compositions are riddled with slow beats that mostly focus on percussions such as hi-hats and cymbals, but the tom-toms seem to be a runner-up favorite of Vercingetorix. There are some blast beats and bass kicks added in to a few tracks here and there, which is radically different than the large portion of black metal that focuses on insane bouts of blast beats behind frenzied strumming. The vocals are harsh cries that litter the limbo area between each instrument, fading in and out with a haunting ghostly quality that will send chills down the listener's spine but due to the quality of the recording it's nearly impossible to distinguish the actual lyrics when not reading along with a sheet.

The Gospel of the Horned One is an album that's soaked in a dark, malicious raw atmosphere that still stands strong over a decade later; while some may call this pure Bathory worship, the content is still unique for its time and has a great sum of enjoyability. While the mixing isn't ideal, with the rhythm guitar constantly pressing the forefront of the production to the point of overshadowing the remaining instruments and vocals, the simple yet messy compositions are memorable. The tempo of the material fluctuates enough to keep the attention of the audience, ranging from slow doomy paces to furious bursts of crazed instrument work, all the while the vocals matching each given mood with shrill cries or aggressive growls. A strong debut despite its many charming flaws and a true hidden gem from early era black metal.

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