Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bannerwar - Chronicles of Pagan Steel EP (2005)

Bannerwar's follow-up to the Honour the Fatherland debut takes a decided turn for the raw aesthetics so inherent to the generations of European underground blackhearts. Whereas the full-length was a thing of streaming, glorious intentions, the Chronicles of Pagan Steel EP sounds like an almost altogether different band. Fuzzy, hissing rhythms supplant the once soaring superstructure, while the drums lie repressed beneath, alternating between double bass foot work and the same admittedly stock blasts. The vocals are the only element that really ties this material back to what had come before, but in a way, the two tracks written for this do emanate a more sinister impression of the Greeks.

Problem is, almost all the riffing patterns here are wholly predictable and feel redundant to so much that was already inhabiting the black metal spectrum. The opening guitar of "Spartan Virtue" has a nice little, grimy melodic tail to it, but the synths do little more than follow the central chords, and when it accelerates, it feels incredibly samey and goes nowhere surprising. At seven minutes, you really need to stock up a song with something interesting, and this one does not. Alas, it's ultimately superior to its neighbor "Polemos", which opens with a fibrous, dissonant sequence of heavily distorted guitar and lightly, playful bass that reminds one of the filthier Norse element of the 90s. Once the brief pagan chants subsides, it crashes along with a riff even more boring than that of the first song, and while the vocal rasp throughout is appreciable, the vapid thrust of the old school black speed rhythm at its core does not seem inspired.

This is a limited release, of course, with about 500 copies pressed to 7" vinyl, so it's not as if the band were looking to create a stroke of genius here, merely to manifest a nice, brief release between full-length efforts. I do like the simplicity and message of the logo and cover art, and I think they match the sound of the EP aesthetically. But why not go the extra mile and draft up a pair of unforgettable songs to go with it? Bannerwar's patriotic devotion to Hellenic history and paganism is not unattractive, but I wish they could reach a little further into their imaginations and pen the guitars to match the visions. Chronicles of Pagan Steel is not bad, but neither is it impressive in the least.

Verdict: Indifference [5.5/10]

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