The Black

Alongside Death

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Just about any type of music -- be it country, jazz, reggae, salsa, hip-hop, or klezmer -- has its purists and its non-purists. And black metal is no different. Typically, black metal purists detest symphonic black metal, exalt Gorgoroth and Marduk as examples of authentic black metal, and claim that Bal-Sagoth, Dimmu Borgir, Twilight Ophera, and Cradle of Filth are watered-down bastardizations of the real thing. Of course, some black metal fans are eclectic and broad-minded enough to appreciate Marduk and Cradle of Filth, but black metal purists, for better or worse, insist on a specific type of sound -- and those purists will enjoy the unmitigated rawness that the Black bring to their late-2000s release Alongside Death, which is their first full-length album since the 1993 recording The Priest of Satan. The Swedish group's lineup has changed since then; on Alongside Death, the Black consist of founder Make Pesonen on drums, D. Form Bragman on vocals and guitar, and Andreas Jonsson on bass. But stylistically, the Black have changed very little since The Priest of Satan; they still favor the raw, rugged, garage-like approach that black metal was known for in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Tempos vary on this 30-minute CD; some parts of Alongside Death are played at breakneck speed, while other parts favor medium tempos. But whatever the tempo, Alongside Death is totally oblivious to the melodic and harmonic lushness of symphonic black metal -- and the album's murky production recalls a time when black metal bands were well aware of their punk heritage. This disc doesn't offer a lot of surprises, but then, it isn't meant to. Alongside Death is well worth hearing if one craves the bare-bones rawness that characterized early black metal.

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