Contrary to what Mr. Roger Nattefrost might want you to believe, CARPATHIAN FOREST have not always been a bunch of cross-dressing pottymouths. "Through Chasm, Caves And Titan Woods" was originally recorded in two sessions, respectably in 1993 and 1994, when the band was still a duo consisting of Nattefrost and Nordavind with two session musicians. The EP marks an important transition in the bands sound from their first demo "Bloodlust And Perversion", and is thus to be considered a notable piece of their, if not all of Black Metal's history.
Two of the five tracks on Through Chasm were recorded in April 1993, “The Eclipse/The Raven” and “Journey Through The Cold Moors Of Svarttjern”. Both of these songs feature acoustic guitar plucking, eerie synths, and a heavy atmosphere of Transilvanian ghostliness. “The Eclipse/The Raven” features lyrics adapted from Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem, which when paired with a twisted organ results in a very spooky piece. “Journeys...” sounds like the perfect soundtrack to an old vampire movie, with evil-sounding acoustic strumming and steadily pounding drums backed by Nattefrost's then distant-sounding half-choked screams. All in all these two tracks are the best on the album, as they deliver a unique Norwegian Black Metal experience shrouded in very dark atmosphere.
As for the remaining three tracks, it becomes more apparent where CARPATHIAN FOREST were headed with their music in the future. The self-titled opening track still holds some of the desolate coldness of their earliest works, but already at this stage they have taken on more of a punk-rock influence, apparent in the fast guitar riffs and several short solos that have now replaced the mellow acoustic parts. The lyrics were written in 1991 and 1992, and thus for the most part deals with northern landscapes and deadly visions, with the notable exception of the last verse of “The Pale Mist Hovers Towards The Nightly Shores”, which includes the questionable line “Acknowledge the supreme Northern racial purity that runs in the blood of my veins”. Seems that the art of provocation wasn't lost on Nattefrost back then either, but it's important to note that this was before Darkthrone's “Aryan Black Metal” controversy led to heavy backlash.
In retrospect, "Through Chasm, Caves And Titan Woods" is an essential release to anyone interested in the history of Norwegian Black Metal or wanting to know what CARPATHIAN FOREST could have ended up sounding like if they hadn't pursued their signature punkish sound. This re-release should be a good opportunity to complete your collection, but I'm somewhat disappointed by the lack of bonus material, as the entire EP clocks in at a mere 19 minutes. Never the less, if you aren't already familiar with the band's early material you should definitely snatch a copy of this release and play it while watching the original Nosferatu or something equally eerie.
(Online March 5, 2008)