If ever a Black Metal band could be described as Cabaret, it is CARPATHIAN FOREST. Each of their albums contains variety despite maintaining a sense of rawness and you'd have to be a right miserable fucker to deny the entertainment value whether their base antics are included or not. “Black Shining Leather” perhaps represents them at their most Saturday Night at the Palladium.
Somewhat polarised in subject matter, any re-enactment of the lyrics could get you in a right pickle if you get confused over your track titles, a case of ending up bloodied and buggered a distinct prospect. There can be no confusion over the musical worth of this album though, despite the vestigial rawness of their initial works being present, CF present a more cohesive and ambitious aspect that results in a good deal of difference between the songs, though their identity remains as a thread throughout. Despite the mention of “Shining” in the title rest assured that there is a caking of crud on much of the spoil and you don't need to read up on Nattefrost's exploits to recognise the pinch of perversion.
For those that like it rough, CF oblige with the likes of the title track and “Pierced Genitalia,” here bass rich Black Metal canes you, the flattened poking of the four-string corrupting the whole, adding to the unpleasantness. Black 'n' Roll elements slam in and out of the more frigid riffing and judicious use of smooth synth provides the feather before the fist. As well as the phlegm flecked frolics, more sedate fair disturbs the night, “Lupus” is a slow, ambient piece that possesses horror film atmosphere and convinces more than “A Forest” which I couldn't stand when THE CURE first brought it out way back when, I rather wish that CF had sullied it like they know how rather than remain faithful to the drab original.
Wearing their influences on their sleeve like they do, the band also introduce purer Black Metal songs, “Lunar Nights” stumbles into being, tripping through the graveyard with leaden feet until it finds its groove, which then builds up to a frantic pace and includes some inspired discordant riffing. There are few tracks here that don't have a number of tricks up their sleeve and though after all this time there is a degree of predictability, it doesn't detract from the fact that this is an album you can enjoy on several levels. CF aren't too filth-ridden to shun anything with beauty to it (actually they would probably club it, fuck it and keep it in the basement,) “The Northern Hemisphere” treads delicately across thin ice whilst an aurora of synth ripples in accompaniment.
Most will already be acquainted with the crusty croaked vocals that seem to segue into whatever mood CF happen to be presenting, Nattefrost has one of the most convincing of BM voices, he doesn't need to adopt any histrionics and scores by keeping it just plain dirty. Authenticity is something that CF can rightfully lay claim to, their influences have roots back to the bands that gave rise to the form and yet they retain a contemporary edge. It's also worth noting that these songs suffer nought in the production, you won't miss a thing because it's all in plain view whether it be that sharp jabbing bass or the direct drumming, it's all in balance and ready to give a beating.
“Black Shining Leather” can rightly be considered a classic and can stand amongst those more frequently vaunted. The variety displayed is something you don't find too much of and I maintain the Cabaret analogy, in fact it wont be long before CARPATHIAN FOREST are gigging in some casino in Las Vegas, no doubt they'll be doing something unspeakable to Elvis' dead, bloated corpse whilst they're at it.
(Online September 8, 2007)