Given the paltry number of Black Metal bands here in darkest South Africa, it would not be wholly unreasonable to view a band like WARTHANE as a big fish in a small pond. This is more of a critique of the local “scene” than the band’s abilities, though, so anyone looking for a slab of decent and surprisingly well produced would do well to check out “Black Divine”.
Most of the Death Metal elements that permeated their earlier songs have been filtered out, with the band currently channelling a melodic strain of Black Metal that sits somewhere between OLD MAN’s CHILD and “Svartalvheim”-era ANCIENT. It’s not the rawest shit around, and most certainly not the most intense, but it has a deliciously eerie atmosphere hanging over it.
“Autumn’s Woe” nails this style, and immediately sets about invoking a strong atmospheric vibe. The song progresses at a moderate pace, with the effective use of (backing) female vocals and those patented Scandinavian-styled sorrowful melodies turning what might otherwise have been an ordinary song into a real winner. The intensity is ratcheted up significantly on “Enthroned Black Angel” and “Blood Beauty Divine”, and while both songs are impressive they do betray the band’s influences just a tad too much, as the main riff to the former is a carbon copy of DISSECTION’s “Beyond The Horizon”, and the latter’s choppy rhythms immediately bringing to mind THORNS’ “Stellar Master Elite”. It’s not entirely commendable but at least they stole from the best. “Dies Irea” does nothing for me, but luckily the brooding “Era Black Divine” and the slightly more intricate “Lord Oblivion” make up for it.
It is at this point, however, that “Black Divine” begins to flirt with mediocrity. The final third of the album is almost entirely devoid of intensity, with the band sticking rather rigidly to slower material. Stuff like “Illumination Of God And Lucifer” and “Oceans Lustrous Overture” amount to nothing more than filler, and extremely boring filler at that. “Betrothed Black Winter’s Dawn” does recapture some magic (strong intro and outro melodies here), but unfortunately it’s too little too late.
WARTHANE presents a solid but ultimately inconsistent piece of work with “Black Divine”. Despite the good vocals, keen sense of melody, and strong production job this album simply loses too much steam towards the end. As such, it might’ve worked better as an EP. Seen in terms of the bigger picture, though, the band does deserve praise for pursuing a style that is rarely heard in this neck of the woods. If they can cut out some of the excess fat, while at the same time injecting just a bit more aggression into the mix, then I’m sure they have a really good album in them somewhere down the line.
(Online April 2, 2012)