One of the oldest still-existing Black Metal formations from The Netherlands is Countess, formed in 1992 by multi-instrumentalist / vocalist Zenon and synth-meister Vercingetorix. The both released a first demo (tape) in 1992, before they were joined by Orlok, shortly after he left the great band (and I do mean that, though apparently not many people share this opinion) Fallen Temple. In mean time, both founding members left, and Orlok is the driving force since. Throughout the past two decades, Countess released lots of demos, EPs and full lengths, and especially live they gained lots of positive response.
In 2013, Countess, aka Orlok and Zagan (this one did work with Countess a couple of times before), digitally released the eight-tracker Sermons Of The Infidel. It was a collection of older songs, yet sadistically re-interpreted, and two previously unreleased tracks. Now this EP gets re-released on CD via Heidens Hart Records, one of the most prominent Dutch Pagan / Black labels (their name can be translated as pagan heart). It does contain those eight songs from the digital release, yet it comes with the five other recorded compositions from those recording sessions too as bonus, and on top of it, there are two live songs as well, also as bonus, taken from the Metal Magic Festival 2014-edition. All fans now cry out loud: hip hip hip hoera!
What this band brings is a mixture of traditional Heavy Metal and traditional Black Metal, with lots of keyboards at the foreground. When it comes to the latter, the synths, it is the use in the most wide approach. Sometimes the keyboards are supportive at the background, creating additional spheres whatsoever. Then again they are purely leading the essence of a track, almost making anything else inferior. And everything in between is possible too. No, seriously, those keyboards are pretty much the essence of Countess’ Metal. The other instrumentation (the vocals included) are rooted within the Eighties and early Nineties era, riff-wise and rhythm-focused. And that’s where the ‘trouble’ might dwell. Sometimes it sounds so goody-goody, so uninspired, so safe and so über-catchy, as if my seven-year old son is trying to play a ‘heavy’ riff on his electric guitar (which he has not, by the way; it’s just an idea…). It’s not that these guys don’t know how to handle their instruments – I am sure, convinced, they are professional – but sometimes it’s like Pop-Music covered by some twelve year old long-haired youngsters… Luckily the keyboards add some value. But those solos, those riffs, those structures; no, it’s meant to impress your girlfriend in order to celebrate your own first pubic hair – or hers. You do not need to follow me, of course; besides, these Dutchmen are truly ‘popular’, so probably it’s I who is short-sighted right now. But just do realise that this is the kind of (Black) Metal that might be a first step into the dark worlds of Obscure Sonic Art. But after thirty years of personal aural defilement, this project can’t convince me. They never did, and they will not now either.
Okay, I admit that I might be somewhat severe, seen the qualitative and experienced performance when listening to the live songs. Indeed, these guys aren’t just brute Neanderthals. But it’s their song writing…