"The Elder Scape" quite frankly is one of the best demos I have ever heard in my life. This demo is by far and a mile above the quality of most Black Metal albums in terms or music, production, maturity, conviction, spirit and atmosphere. For those of you who have read and trusted my assessment of ARCHAICUS' previous effort, the mighty "Beneath The Horizon", you will already be aware of just how good this band is. To you few all I have to say is that this is better, so go and get it now! For the rest of you a little more detail may be in order.
What you get here is a fantastic piece of artistic Black Metal, which frequently shows off its early SATYRICON medieval approach, combined with some of the most exquisite melodic, depressive and atmospheric musical genius that recent Black Metal has seen. Everything has improved from the demo, the song writing is more mature, the structures more complex and the musicianship more skilled. The production is absolutely fantastic with a great deep cavernous sound which creates the perfect necro setting for the brilliance of the compositions.
If you imagine the depressive nature of BURZUM combined with the power of MAYHEM and the ingenuity of early SATYRICON all combined and forever interchanging you will be about half way there to imagining the greatness of this creation. The guitar riffs are much more individual than before and show off a very charismatic mixture of early SATYRICON and the slower, more sedate and depressive GRAVELAND. The riffs flow perfectly and frequently change direction to include folk sounding elements and up tempo MAYHEM inspired riffing as well as some great clean and acoustic guitar work that benefits greatly from the use of reverb in the production. Unlike in the demo the keyboards are also more sedate here and compliment perfectly, where as on the demo they were often taking too much focus, making the perfect tool for creating additional atmosphere.
The vocals are perfect and inhuman when they are of the shrieking Black Metal style. They sound somewhat similar to GRAVELAND and lack none of his power. These vocals are complimented by fantastically haunting deeper growls, the kind I always wish MAYHEM had adopted before they chose Atilla. My only complaint about the vocals is the fact that at times they aren't used enough as some sections tend to flow for too long without the accompanying shrieks.
Tracks 1 and 3 seem to be the fan favourites at the minute and indeed the band has decided to re-record tracks 4 and 5 in late February because they aren't completely happy with them. Therefore the final edit of "The Elder Scape" is going to have tracks 1 to 3 included here as well as two re-recordings of the last two tracks and two tracks from the demo. All in all that is set to be one behemoth of a release that by my belief SHOULD DEFINITELY be snapped up by some label.
The decision to re-record the last two tracks is a very mature one and one which I think is quite wise, especially when listening to the last track. "In This Sign You Will Conquer..." is possibly my favourite of all the tracks on this album in terms of the material (with "Whillom, To Perpetual Ruin" and "Unto Longing Wanhope" being the other choice cuts), but despite is fantastic depressive and epic nature some of the guitar riffs have been sloppily recorded and could certainly do with a little tidying up. The material itself however is simply breathtaking in its greatness and should not be changed at all, in fact I'll shoot Vortigern if he even thinks about it.
This release is deeply enchanting and has a powerful mystical and spiritual feel to its haunting atmospheres and despite being compared to all of these big names I feel that there are very few who could rival this for its compositional genius. A true work of Black Metal art. (Online February 27, 2004)