Thursday, March 3, 2011

Flame - March Into Firelands (2011)

With a band name and album title like this, one might assume that these Finns have a certain elemental predisposition. In 2005 they hurled us Into the Age of Fire, and now it appears they are ordering us back to the Firelands. I don't know if they're the same goal or two separate destinations, but I do know that I expect Flame to scathe my face off in their conflagration of hostile blackened thrash metal. Considering that they've got ex-members of Barathrum and Urn, both of whom were well acquainted with the fires of Hell, and neither of which are quite unlike this band in execution, the expectations are even higher. March Into Firelands does take a few tracks to 'warm up', but in the end it does deliver a satisfactory, if conventional branding of its molten charms.

Flame perform your basic black metal concoction, two parts old Bathory, one part Mayhem, with some Horna stirred in to draw out the added flavor. It's a timeless blend, but not tireless, and the Finns do just enough to keep their compositions interesting through the dark resonance of the record's atmosphere. In listening through this sophomore, you experience the very image of the cover art in real time, each track like "Doomed..." or "Burning Horror" an impression of horned, cackling devils jabbing you with molten forks as they ward your spirit into the very farthest reaches of the fiery pits of the underworld. Sometimes they'll rip into a blast beat sequence, but more often they create a slower, measured thrashing which succeeds not in its interesting notation, but the integration of the raw sound and Blackvenom's evil motherfucking vocals, which carve arteries like a fire ax.

The deeper into the album, the more entertaining it becomes, with personal favorite moments arriving in "Destructive Saint" and galloping war frenzy of "Flaming Magic Assault". The finale, "Gateway to the Birth of Lunacy" also builds a grandiose, tense atmosphere through a blend of tempos, seeming at times like the album has devolved into chaos, but then picking up with some bold recovery or layered, sinister vocals. It's one of those truly rare efforts in which the echoed, frightening atmosphere compensates for the often lackluster writing, as if the band knew in advance that they just had to have the right sound to succeed. Well, they've done so, if only marginally, and fans of the first three Bathory full-lengths or Urn will probably want to give this a listen. This album toasts more than marshmallows. It toasts the innocent, and then pleasures itself with their eternal misery.

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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