If Greek scene veterans NAER MATARON prove anything with “Praetorians” it’s that they can conjure up one hell of a vast sound using only basic of instrumentation. The album is devoid of any orchestral or overtly experimental embellishments yet the music, as raging and uncompromising as it is, carries with it more than a faint sense of rich grandeur. Oh, and Vicotnik (DHG) handles vocals on here! This should be good.
And it is, my friends. Having had a long-time infatuation with the Greek/Iberian take on the traditional Black Metal aesthetic I was more than a little psyched to sink my teeth into these new songs, or rather to let them sink their teeth into me, and as expected the Greeks have yet again delivered a strong album with “Praetorians”, the music being just as brutal and deadly as the elite Roman soldiers the title refers to. There is a slight catch though – none of these songs really grab you from the off, as most of them finish off much stronger than they start out. Most songs start off rather pedestrian with the band only really kicking things into high gear midway through the songs, at which stage new sets of riffs and melodic nuances take over and completely push the songs into realms of prime brilliance. Take “Sun Wheel” for instance – for the first few minutes all it does is blast away with a decidedly MORBID ANGEL-meets-MARDUK vibe but then things slow down, a scraggy solo kicks in before things get all epic in the best SEPTIC FLESH tradition. The same thing happens in “Secret Heritage” before it too kicks into hyperdrive around the midway point with that sorrowful yet epic kind of melodic dynamic that reminded me a lot of “Vikingligr Veldi”. This marriage of brutality and majesty is handled deftly throughout even though the variations in pace/melody may come off as just a little too abrupt at times. After a rather grim (read: great) Deathrash workout in “Eagle’s Nest” the band lets loose with the epic title track which features instantly memorable mid-paced riffs and a very suitable foreboding atmosphere that brings to mind the feeling of being locked up in a coliseum awaiting gnarling bloodthirsty beasts to be unleashed upon your sorry body.
Couple all this with a totally rabid vocal delivery courtesy of Vicotnik and you have a scorcher on your hands. I must admit that I had slight fears that the man might bring with him some of those pretentious avant-garde elements of his main band but his snarling performance on here quickly eliminates any notion that he might turn NAER MATARON into some bewildering post-Black Metal entity. He’s here to smash heads rather than puzzle them and the rest of the band are more than eager and able to assist him in this mission. In case you haven’t been following my rambling, the bottom line is that “Praetorians” is perhaps their best work yet and you wont be sorry if you pick up a copy. As an extra bonus the cover art is also among the year's best!
(Online October 26, 2008)