VLAD TEPES  War Funeral March  CD   (Drakkar Productions)   14.98

The handful of releases that French black metallers Vlad Tepes put out back in the 90s have gone in and out of print over the years, usually only appearing in some new limited edition release for a moment before selling out, but now we've finally gotten these classic discs of noisy LLN blackness in stock via the new Drakkar reissues, and I've been playing the hell out of 'em. A key player in the now legendary Les Légions Noires, Vlad Tepes were one of the more straightforward sounding bands to come out of this loosely-knit black metal scene that emerged in France in the early 90s (and which also featured the likes of Mütiilation, Belkètre, Moëvöt, Susvourtre, Vèrmyapre Kommando, and Torgeist), though when we're talking about any of the bands that were part of the LLN, even the more traditional sounding bands still sounded plenty fucked-up and chaotic. And like almost all of the LLN bands, Vlad Tepes were only around for a brief time, releasing a handful of cassettes and splits between 1994 and 1996, but their stuff has been avidly sought after by fans of weird black metal ever since.

The first official Vlad Tepes release was the 1994 War Funeral March cassette, a five-song assault of swarming grimy black metal that succeeded in crafting a weird, feral atmosphere in spite of the thin, low-fi production. The band's paper-thin guitars are coated with a black crust of distortion, but man, the riffs are majestic, dark magisterial riffs spiked with ugly dissonance and strange noises; guitar solos are scarce, but when they do appear, they come screaming out of the gloom, blasts of crazed shredding. The drums are buried way back in the mix, racing along at galloping d-beat tempos or slipping into off-kilter rocking tempos, sometimes dissolving into the blackened blur almost totally, and the vocals are pretty psychotic, erupting into howling screams and garbled shrieks, his voice possessed with this strained, gasping quality that adds to their sick edge. These songs are noisy and deformed but often very catchy, songs like "Walachian Tyrant" revealing these killer super-catchy hooks that'll sink their dirty talons into your frontal lobe. The lyrics and song titles on War Funeral evoke scenes of ancient European battlegrounds, the soil black with blood, and the whole recording is possessed with this strange, unique atmosphere that is particular to the LLN crowd.

The last four songs on the disc come from one of Vlad Tepes's early rehearsal tapes from '93, and unsurprisingly offers a rotten, ragged no-fi recording steeped in frenzied basement malevolence; wouldn't you know that these are my favorite songs on the disc. These jam-room recordings are as vicious as the demo, with blazing heavy metal riffs and scorched screams cloaked in hissy blackness, with a couple of riffs that wouldn't have been out of place on an old Judas Priest album.

Awesome noisy French black metal that might have been more at home on some moldy old cassette tape, but I'll take it however I can get it; this along with all of the other recent Vlad Tepes reissues on Drakkar are highly recommended for fans of the eccentric Black Legions sound.

Track Samples:
Sample : VLAD TEPES-War Funeral March
Sample : VLAD TEPES-War Funeral March
Sample : VLAD TEPES-War Funeral March