Carpathian Forest

Defending the Throne of Evil

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"Carpathian Forest must be destroyed!," screams the CD booklet for Defending the Throne of Evil -- proof that Norway's Carpathian Forest may not be taking themselves entirely seriously. Which has always been the band's charm, so to speak; like other black metal acts, the delivery is poker-faced and anti-Christian, guitars encrusted with grime, vocals shrieking like squirrels trapped in the garbage disposal, and double-bass tempos veering nearly out of control. While past Carpathian Forest albums have embraced a gritty, Motörhead-meets-Mayhem aesthetic, Defending is the first record where vocalist/guitarist/leader Nattefrost has had full control of the group's reins (longtime collaborator Nordavind quit during the recording of 2001's Morbid Fascination of Death album) -- and he has disappointingly steered the band through more typical and predictable black metal pastures, fleshing out the sound and arrangements with symphonic keyboards. Still, "Spill the Blood of the Lamb" is compellingly vicious, and the final three songs deviate from the maelstrom with some welcome weirdness -- "The Old House on the Hill" is a comical ditty consisting of a jaunty, carnival-inspired keyboard theme smothered with Nattefrost's evil-monster croaks; "Nekrophiliac/Anthropophagus Maniac" concludes down an unexpected two-track road lined with squawking saxophones; and "Cold Murderous Music" sounds like Portishead (!) fronted by a tracheotomy recipient, a fascinating and strange dichotomy (to say the least). However, too much of Defending, solid as it is, takes a conservative path, leaving Carpathian Forest's strong points -- experimental indulgences, tongue-in-cheek S&M lyrical excursions, and the stripped-down rock & roll glory of past albums -- in relatively short supply here. Unfortunately, most of Defending the Throne of Evil just falls in with the rest of the symphonic black metal pack.

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