The first view on this CD promises “Vietnamese Black Metal“ and one thing is sure, I had never something to do with Metal from Vietnam until today. But that’s only half of the truth as the band, consisting of two brothers, has its domicile in America, strictly spoken in Minneapolis, Minnesota and despite that, this release sheds a strange feeling indeed, especially as the record label is rooted in Hong Kong. To describe this certain feeling, you would have to go back in time to the years 1985/1986 and listen to two records with the ominous titles “Bestial Devastation” and “Morbid Visions” (both released via the culty Brasilian label Cogumelo Records) from a band called SEPULTURA. A Metal band from Brasil, that was new and so, such bands from such distant countries (at least for us Europeans) were awarded with an exotic bonus, which should distract from smaller lacks.
Today, it’s a bit different because nearly the whole globe seems to be full with Heavy Metal bands and that exotic bonus seems to be a bit outdated and unnecessary. Well, SWORD OF DARKNESS got no bonus but they still convey this certain feeling as I’ve said above. Let’s come to the point! Already after less spins it comes obvious that Lord Nebulah (Four Stringed Battle Axe, Unholy Serenades, Bestial Summoner) and Thien Sai Den (Cacophonous Six Stringed Axes, Battery, Malevolent Orator) don’t need any bonus and one hasn’t to overlook smaller failures. “Heathendom” should gain some attention in the Black Metal scene although this genre is midwhile overrun by new and often averaged bands.
But there are still some gems and SWORD OF DARKNESS belong to these exceptions. The two swords of darkness find their strength in pretty symphonic sounds without to lose the heart of Black Metal. That means, that you can categorize them clearly as a Black Metal band despite that dominating keyboards and that’s not only because of their dark lyrics but also due to the fierce atmosphere, “Heathendom” conveys. Sometimes, they push the pedal on full throttle and lay down an unbelievable speed. Both musicians have outstanding technical abilities and have not to fill any gaps due to their bombastic keyboard sounds. Traditional Heavy Metal like guitar riffs serve for enthusiasm and also the variable tempo in terms of the drums is great. The vocals weave skilfully between harsh shrieks and diabolical grunting and influence the whole mood of the album.
“Heathendom” has to be listened to in one spin, it’s not necessary to mention single songs. Productionwise, it’s also well done. True Black Metal purists will probably have their problems with SWORD OF DARKNESS but everybody, who has EMPEROR, elder DIMMU BORGIR, SUMMONING and ABIGOR in their collection, should check them out. It’s really a devilish great disc, that’s sure. (Online May 31, 2004)