Carpathian Forest

Strange Old Brew

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Strange Old Brew couldn't be a more appropriate title for this bizarre hodgepodge of Scandinavian necro-weirdness. The first six tracks of Carpathian Forest's third full-length platter show a more traditional, rock-influenced take on the ugly Norwegian caterwauling of corpsepainted longhairs; "Mask of the Slave," "Thanatology," and"The Suicide Song" prove that even the frostiest of black metal can (almost) swing, in an endearingly messy way, simple riffs and basic arrangements mixing quite well with the tortured vocal croaks, violent S&M imagery, and horde-of-bees guitar sound that are more characteristic of the genre. But the second half of the record is another story, "House of the Whipcord" boasting whispered vocals accompanied by haunting piano (!) and saxophone (!) mewlings. "Cloak of Midnight" is a painfully slow, dirge-like slog through molten tar; "Return of the Freezing Winds" is pure, mid-tempo Celtic Frost worship (and possibly the album's best cut); "Theme From Nekromantikk" is a left-field, completely out of place piano-and-strings instrumental, and "He's Turning Blue," with its chanted chorus and sloppy power chords, is simply blackened Norwegian punk rock. The poker-faced posturing of main Carpathian collaborators R. Nattefrost and J. Nordavind and the cheap black-and-white cover art may point toward a typically harsh, vile black metal outing (shades of early Darkthrone), but Strange Old Brew's surprisingly filth-free production values and the band's kooky, obnoxious, and unrestrained songwriting make for an oddly enjoyable listen -- quite a compliment for an outfit that would most likely describe itself as "totally cult."

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