Countess - Fires of Destiny - (8.5/10)
Published on July 30, 2016
Genre:Black / Heavy Metal
Released in 2016, Fires of Destiny is the fifteen album in the Countess canon, and it pretty much picks up where Ancient Lies and Battles Cries (2014) left off. At nearly an hour long, spanning ten tracks, Fires of Destiny doesn’t change the band’s approach to blackened metal. Honestly though, little has changed in the band’s twenty-four year history, but that’s just the way it’s meant to be. While most of the band’s full length albums have been performed solely by longtime member Orlok, Fires of Destiny marks one of those rare occurrences where the project is fleshed out with a few more bodies; this time being Zagan (Necromantic Worship, Morte Noire) on guitar and Mortüüm (Morte Noire, The Impaler) on drums. Regardless of personnel, Fires of Destiny is pretty much business as usual.
It should suffice to say that if you’ve liked anything Countess has put out over their long career, you will probably really like Fires of Destiny. The band’s career can be likened to a form Bathory worship tempered with a lot of classic heavy metal influence, mainly vintage Manowar: that’s the easiest description; chest thumping, fist pumping, bible burning, blackened heavy metal. That’s actually a really great starting point when one tries to explain what Countess really sounds like to the uninitiated. The guitar tone, the epic, charging pace of the riffs, and the general songwriting all have frequent nods to Quorthon and Manowar, yet with tons of unrefined charm. So try think what it would sound like if Manowar was charred and blackened during a battle charge and the vocals consisted of gruff, disparaging shouts instead of the soaring singing used by Eric Adams.
Fires of Destiny is also slathered with a ton of sweeping, airy, Korg-tinged keyboard passages that invoke a feeling of Gods of War Manowar laced with Hammerheart-era Bathory. Despite the frequent nods to traditional metal, there are a few segments of tremolo picking and even a few sections that border on blasting. These sections are sandwiched between hard charging, often galloping riffs, giving short bursts of rangy black metal. The rhythm section does a fine job keeping things moving along, but the focus remains on the distorted riffing and gruff vocals. The production is fairly clear, especially for the style, with the riffs sounding sharp and poignant in spite of the distortion levels, while the vocals are nestled front and center.
So Fires of Destiny continues down the same nostalgic path that the band’s earlier works trod, yet isn’t that the reason listeners so often come back to Countess? The new additions to the band see some competent, often blazing leads, more interesting drum patterns, and a few extra melodic movements, even if the album is pretty much business as usual. Despite the leaning towards a more traditional-based sound that leans heavily on first wave black metal, there are still some incredibly scathing passages, like that blackened thrashing verse riff on “Today Is a Good Day to Die”. If you’ve been a fan of Countess in the past, then surely Fires of Destiny will receive some hefty rotation in your stereo; if you’ve never been a fan of the band, this won’t change your mind and you can promptly fuck right off and go pound sand.