Saturday, 26 November 2016

Raventale: On A Crystal Swing

Raventale are a band (primarily consisting of Astaroth Merc) from the Ukraine that I serendipitously stumbled across a few months ago, getting into their quite brilliant Dark Substance of Dharma album very quickly.  The particular disc under review here is a reissue of their very first album On A Crystal Swing (to give it the English translation - the actual original language title is На хрустальных качелях), whose recording dates back to 2006.  The reissue, which I've listened to quite a few times now, also contains three demo tracks from 2005.  Stylistically On A Crystal Swing is not hugely different to their more recent aforementioned album, but there is more of an emphasis on a doom-like atmosphere.
Opening with a majestic intro, which begins with the sound of ravens naturally, we are soon drifting into the fairly strong Огнём кромсая небеса, a keyboard driven, black metal odyssey of sorts.  Then the album's longest piece Серой тоской пораскинулся лес, which I have mixed feelings about.  On one hand there are some incredibly powerful segments that pull at the soul with a might not often heard in music, however... the main sequence is repeated so much that it actually drains the power out of it.  At 13 minutes 39 seconds, most of which is repetitive, it becomes way too long.  Hence on current listens I tend to switch forward at about the seven-minute mark.  It's a shame because, as I say, there is some stupendously tormenting material built into this track.

The next track, Небес смолистая чернь, is probably my favourite, again with doom-laden vocals, a beautiful keyboard-constructed string effect overlays majestic guitar riffs against a mid to slow paced rhythm section.  After that is a two-minute break from power chords in the shape of Дождя колыбель, which is a piano instrumental piece again backed by a string effect.  That leads nicely into the solid nine-minute closer, На хрустальных качелях.  As mentioned above, the reissue (pictured) contains three additional tracks at the end, which were not present on the now out-of-print former edition.  These are basically variants (shorter too) of the tracks I've talked about above, and interesting enough in their own right to warrant a place on the collector's shelves.

Whilst not a supreme listen overall, the album strikes me as a very strong debut, symbolising what was to come.  I've since bought all of the Raventale albums, mostly released by underground label Solitude Productions (although this particular one is by Bloodred Distribution).  My intention is to cover all of them over time; in the meantime I'm hoping more music fans discover the skilled beauty of Raventale's refined brand of black metal.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Werewolf Shadow

Sometimes known (more so in the US) as Werewolf Versus The Vampire Woman (in reference to its climactic Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man-style showdown) and La Noche de Walpurgis (Night of Walpurgis) in its native Spain, this Waldemar Daninsky outing was the first pairing of horror icons Paul Naschy and León Klimovsky (the latter actually an Argentinian, whose career evolved between the countries).  In classic fashion two doctors foolishly remove the silver bullets embedded in the chest of inert Daninsky, this act reviving him as the werewolf and thus bringing an abrupt end to the lives of the two men present in the morgue.  Later on a couple of nubile students are on a research mission to find the burial site of Countess Wandessa, someone who was killed centuries before and rumoured to be a vampire.  They meet Daninsky, who has set himself up in a lonely castle.  Hitching up at his place for a few days they eventually locate Wandessa, proceeding to pull out the silver dagger that's keeping her in a corpse-like state (despite the fact that they know of the legend).  Wandessa is alive once again and menacing the occupants of the castle, which ultimately leads to a battle between the blood-sucking countess and the werewolf.
A lovely little film from 1971 demonstrating some great atmospheric sequences, particularly once the undead Wandessa appears on the scene - Klimovsky was brilliant at this sort of creepiness despite being quite an old man by the time he made this.  It can be argued that it is overall low on velocity, although underlying this is essentially Naschy's desire to remake Universal's classic monster movies albeit with boobs and blood (who can argue with that concoction?).  As always, Naschy gets the beautiful babe (and there are several to choose from in this picture, including luscious Barbara Capell, who looks even better once she joins the legions of the undead!).  Reportedly Naschy wrote this film but nearly lost out on the main role to a younger, better looking actor.  Thankfully this decision was overturned by the German backers to the film, thus the legacy of the character was granted longevity that really lasts until this day with a number of harder core Spanish horror fans.

Anchor Bay US restored this film to its original Spanish glory in the early part of the Millennium, and this DVD from the legendary but ill-fated BCI Eclipse essentially replicated the earlier disc.  The long out-of-print DVD from BCI presents the film in either Spanish or English (with some Spanish) language plus English subtitles.  The disc also contains the shorter US cut (which some viewers prefer) in a much more battered-looking version.  Incidentally, many actors actually spoke in English while the film was being shot, as it was intended to export this from the beginning.

The main feature on the disc looks okay, with some jagged edges and awful day-for-night photography that surely should have been re-graded?  Otherwise viewed on a decent TV albeit from a distance the standard definition image is certainly passable with some nice colours and contrast.  A new Blu-ray restoration would naturally, as always, be very welcome.  The disc also came in a slipcase-enclosed amaray that contained a booklet with a pretty decent essay about the film and its history on home video.  BCI were a godsend and would truly have more than hailed in the HD collectors era with the many great films they gave life to on DVD.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Hourglass Sanatorium

Or Sanatorium pod Klepsydra as it would have been known in Polish, directed by Wojciech Has.  This will be a hard film to digest for most viewers I would imagine, but I decided to give it a go nonetheless.  The plot is almost impossible to describe, but to attempt a synopsis: a traveller arrives at a dilapidated building where his father has died, or is about to die...  There he is told by a doctor that time operates differently and whilst his father may be dead from where Joseph has travelled, that's not necessarily the case here.  Joseph then proceeds to traverse deeper into a dreamlike world from one strange locale to another, from one odd encounter to the next.

A near overwhelming exercise in surrealist cinema, Hourglass Sanatorium is a film that lives outside of the time (1973) in which it was made.  I have to admit that most of the symbolic imagery goes over my head, and perhaps this composition of subversive ideas is something that academics will revel in.  Despite its long running time (just over two hours) I think it's worth the rest of us sticking with, because the final scenes suggest what's going on with the lost soul of Joseph.  I understand the film is also allegorical of the Jewish plight during the thirties and forties although again I am not knowledgeable enough on such historical matters to appreciate the film in this respect.
What I can say is that the imagery contained within is extremely powerful - the cinematography combined with production design is a monumental achievement all round, with rich and evocative visuals playing on the senses in almost every frame.  The sound design is also notable in its ability to construct atmosphere.  I do hope to revisit the film again with the aim of deciphering its esoteric narrative details.

British company Mr Bongo have recently put the film out on disc, and I picked up the Blu-ray for this viewing.  It is extras-free unfortunately - I say that because often films that don't really need much explanation arrive with plenty of interviews, etc., whereas something that could really do with some insightful exposition comes along with nothing at all.  Then again, it could be said that this might encourage people to interpret the material themselves, though I suspect most contemporary viewers are a little too lazy for that.  The 1.85:1 full HD image on the Blu-ray is exemplary, with enticing detail/chromatics supported by what is likely to be the best possible audio given the era of production (it's here in DTS HD MA 5.1 but the sound really is centred largely at the front).  Audio is Polish language only, with excellent English language subtitles.  As an import option, there is also quite a nice Polish digibook edition which is English-friendly (apart from the bundled Polish booklet) and can be picked up for a reasonable price at time of writing.

One to give a chance if you're feeling brave and experimental - if so, the Blu-ray is the way to go.

Monday, 5 September 2016

The Dead Next Door

Made over the course of several years during the late eighties, The Dead Next Door finally spluttered into VHS life by 1989, and has since gone on to evolve a minor cult reputation over the decades since.  An ode to the zombie films of the seventies and eighties, it's an ambitious tale of an uprising of the dead that sweeps across America.  Sounds unoriginal now, in the wake of millions of such films, but back then such films were comparatively infrequent.  Here the film follows a government appointed 'Zombie Squad' as they tour the countryside surviving whilst searching for what promises to be a cure for the epidemic.

Back in the nineties I picked up a dupe tale of the film, as it was not easy to get hold of at the time in the UK, and was for a while of the opinion that it had actually been shot on VHS (I'd seen a few features of this ilk around the period, like Redneck Zombies and the fuck-awful Zombie 90).  The reasons for it resembling a video-made item are now clear (explained indirectly through some of the extras that have materialised on disc since), however, it was indeed shot on film (Super 8mm to be specific).  That makes it even more ambitious for what was essentially a group of amateurs with little experience behind them.  There are some decent gore effects throughout, with a story that spans a variety of locations, populated by many extras.  Sam Raimi became involved from a production point of view, and Bruce Campbell ended up helping with the looped sound as well as voicing one of the characters - the location-recorded sound at the time proved to be unusable so the whole film had to be redubbed in post-production.  Overall J R Bookwalter did an impressive job under the circumstances, although casual modern-day viewers may be left a little cold.
As mentioned, I used to view this as a hopeless quality tape for a few years until Anchor Bay released a much better (though shorter, due to damaged footage) edition on DVD in the mid-noughties.  This came packed with quite a few extras too, and was the definitive release for some time.  Ten years or so after that Bookwalter decided to go through a fundraising campaign to restore the film properly, given the fact that technology had moved on quite a bit and the world was now blessed with the home cinema phenomenon that is Blu-ray.  Out of this came an Ultimate Edition in the US, while the UK got a stripped-down (though not bare) equivalent, courtesy of 88 Films.  The latter includes the remastered film (which was evidently a painstaking process, as outlined by the Restoration of the Dead featurette), commentary, featurette, and some deleted scenes as well as a booklet.  Being much cheaper than the UE I deliberated for some time over which version to get, but eventually decided to pay the extra and get the full deal.  It's certainly a great package overall, with multiple viewing options to start with:: the full frame (as shot) remaster, a (cropped) widescreen remaster, the DVD version that Anchor Bay released, and the original VHS version (all on two discs).  The reason he's decided to include all three is because the differences are not down to quality alone, for example the new edit corrects some issues with elements accidentally photographed that should not have been visible, as well as locating sources for the footage missing from the DVD version, whilst furthermore colour correcting the image and fixing unavoidable flaws that could not be sorted out ten years prior.  In terms of video and audio quality, the new remaster looks really good, especially when you think about the very small frame size of 8mm film (i.e. a fraction of the detail of 35mm).  There's plenty of grain along with much more detail than I'd seen before - the restoration has clearly been done with great respect.  One of the big sells for the UE is that you can choose to view with the 'classic dub' audio, featuring Campbell et al, or the newly restored on-location recordings, which are now usable thanks for technological progression.

There are also several of J R's pre-Dead short films, which show surprising promise considering he was just a boy at the time (these have commentary tracks by J R and his son!).  Aside from new featurettes the discs collate the extras from previous releases, plus have some trailers for various things.  There is also a CD of the soundtrack for used and unused material, plus a booklet, a reversible cover with unique number (for the 1000-limited print run).  Pleasingly it's also signed by J R himself.

Whether you want to pay a much larger sum for the UE will depend on a) how much you like the film, and b) how much of a collector you are, but it is truly an ultimate and very complete package, on the whole a loveletter to the film itself.  Alternatively you get the main transfer plus some of the extras for a much lower price from 88 - the choice is yours.  Either way, I think this film deserves a place in the discerning horror fan's collection.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Vampires' Night Orgy

A 1972 Spanish horror directed by the king (in my opinion, naturally) of the genre, Leon Klimovsky, the title is somewhat misleading - there is a little sexual activity but certainly nothing approaching an orgy, unless it refers to the periodic flocking of the undead over human meat.  In a similar fashion to several of the Italian go-go Gothic chillers of the sixties, the film starts with a busload of people travelling through the European countryside.  After assuring the crowd that the 'crate' of a bus will make the journey, the bus driver himself finds that he doesn't quite have the same longevity - he has a heart attack at the wheel.  The enervated group decide to take a detour (corpse lying across back seat) to the nearest village for a rest, there finding the place relatively deserted and quite creepy.  After meeting up with another traveller and one or two locals they are all invited to wine with the resident countess, who insists they are welcome to stay.  The next day their newly adopted driver appears to be acting a little strange, which is put down to alcohol consumption, and the bus now won't start!  They are forced to stay longer than expected, however, to their peril the locals are not entirely your normal collective of villagers...
Overlooked by the majority of horror fans unfortunately, this - as with many other Spanish horrors of the period - is something of a minor classic in my eyes.  The isolated rural village has a great look, an air of the uncanny persistently underpinning the proceedings.  The undead creatures themselves are very spooky - through the use of odd angles, misdirected lighting, and sudden wide angles, Klimovsky had a knack for shooting the supernatural with a distortion that really gives certain scenes some punch.  Amidst all of this, however, are some great lines that mix amusement with horror to great effect.  For example I love the scene where one of the guests screans at a human finger in her dinner (certainly trumps a fly in the soup).  Unbeknownst to the travellers humans are being butchered to get the meat, hence the missed appendage during the mincing.  But to cover up the truth they say that the cook had an accident whilst preparing the food, as if that's supposed to comfort everyone!  Said cook then materialises from the kitchen carrying a new dish and one missing finger...
I used to view this film via the old UK Pagan DVD, but Code Red have since put it out on Blu-ray.  Being one of my favourites I decided to import.  It's definitely a significant step-up from the old Pagan disc: the Blu features a much bolder, more vivid image compared to the washed-out, blurry, low resolution mess that was the (non-anamorphic) DVD.  It's nothing format-smashing objectively speaking, and the colour grading is a bit of a mess, but I guess we have to keep expectations in check for such a niche title where the original elements may no longer exist (which would be tragic), hence I suspect this Blu was taken from a (fairly battered) 35mm print - there's certainly a lot of wear/scratches.  Both discs run the film for approximately the same length, the DVD around four minutes shorter due to PAL speed-up, but the Blu features the unclothed version (about three sequences, including sexy Helga Line, containing nudity that is covered up by night dresses in the alternate version found on the DVD.  The other difference is the fact that the Code Red utilises an English print, whereas the DVD has credits in Spanish (although both only feature English language audio).  Sound is shrill on both, the Code Red featuring deeper vocals with a more distinct music track, though a fair bit of hiss too.

In terms of extras, the Code Red actually loses to the old UK DVD, though not by too much: we're talking about a very rough VHS quality trailer versus notes on the film and crew plus stills.  One day I hope for a restoration from superior materials and the option to view this film in Spanish with English subtitles, until then the Code Red Blu, whilst far from perfect considering the price, is a very welcome upgrade of a fantastic Spanish chiller from what should now be thought of as a golden era.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Emmanuel and the Last Cannibals

Released in 1977 and directed by the notorious Joe D'Amato (Aristide Massaccesi) this is an attempt to mix the bloody cannibal sub-genre with, inappropriately enough, erotica.  Typically a group of westerners head out to the jungle (the Amazon in this case) in search of what is believed to be the sole remaining tribe of true cannibals in the world.  The team is headed up by hot reporter Emmanuel, who demonstrates her hungry need to report on anything in the prologue when she is revealed to have spent time in prison in order to uncover abuse and corruption.  Once hooked up with a famed academic anthropologist and a small team of helpers (including a nun!) they head off for an adventure where most of them won't survive, and those that do will be changed forever.

Surprisingly for a cannibal film this one features minimal violence towards animals, therefore it is somewhat more bearable even though it might not be classed as up there with the 'best'.  There is of course some fairly nasty violence and gore, often of a sexual nature, that I'm surprised was left intact for the 88 Films release.  On top of that, there's a lot of nudity and sex which should please fans of Laura Gemser.  If women aren't fingering themselves they're fingering each other, or enticing men to mate with them.  Lurid material then but at least it helps prevent boredom.  The adventure aspect is, as with many of these films, the factor that makes or breaks the storyline itself, and this one summits with a grand escape from the island by the survivors after a hellish journey that claims almost everyone.
There is an underlying ineptitude to this production that's exemplified by the English language audio track (some great lines for your amusement), which can be overlooked by viewers wishing to immerse themselves in such a sleazy but periodically fun (and gruesome) adventure.  Interestingly the film reminds me in a number of ways of 1980's Zombi Holocaust, feeling very much like the same sort of territory.  In fact both films also share some of the same (beautiful) music (composer Nico Fidenco was involved in both) and happen to have been screenplayed by Romano Scandariato.  Gianfranco Couyoumdjian also produced both films, and Dr Butcher himself, Donald O'Brien, appears in both in nefarious roles.  A lot of coincidences then, it's no wonder they feel like they're both taking place on the same island at times.

As mentioned, surprisingly 88 Films have got this film through apparently without any cuts for a UK Blu-ray release.  It runs around 92 minutes, longer than the previous British cinema release and its subsequent video counterparts, albeit a few seconds shorter than the old Shriek Show DVD (I understand none of the gore is affected).  It looks pretty good for what it is, in widescreen and with a choice between Italian or English language audio (unfortunately you have to choose between them on the main menu rather than being able to switch in film, but at least the option is there).  English subtitles are available while extras are limited to trailers, alternate credits, a postcard (in the pack) and reversible cover.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Death by Invitation

The prologue depicts a young woman, suspected witch, being flayed by a horde of medieval people, themselves in some cases decorated in almost a devilish fashion.  In the present day someone who resembles the woman, possibly her ancestor, infiltrates a family consisting of the killers' descendants, the intention apparently being one of cross-generational vengeance.

A little known film by Ken Friedman from 1971, Death by Invitation is an intriguing study of a psychologically disturbed woman driven to kill by events that may have occurred aeons previous.  I say 'may' because I feel there are elements of ambiguity in all of this - either she is the descendant of a witch that was killed by Catholics (and, indeed, there is a brief hint that the religion has been passed down to the family in the present day), or she is deluded into thinking this is the case by her own paranoia and misandry.  Or perhaps she is the actual witch herself, who has survived for hundreds of years to now finally discover or locate her opportunity to end an extended lifetime of bitterness.
It's a plodding piece, underpinned by an air of feminism that I wouldn't ordinarily have much sympathy for in the post-millennial Western world, however, the concept overall is not without its interest.  Moreover, the lead character - the first known role of actress Shelby Leverington - is fascinatingly sexual and disturbed.  Leverington is quite incredible, both for her mysterious, acute portrayal of Lise, and for her alluring sultry persona.  She may not appeal to all but I found her to be hypnotic throughout, especially during her intense pre-murder delivery of a historical monologue that her character may have been witness to in some way, or have an obsessive belief in - despite this being pure talk it is a captivating and vivid sequence.

Having had very minimal exposure to the public in the past via home video (and possibly a brief theatrical run?) Vinegar Syndrome unearthed this for what could be its final lease of life, a double bill DVD, part of the Drive-in Collection, with Dungeon of Harrow (previously it was doubled with 1979 slasher Savage Water before that ran into trouble and was quickly withdrawn from circulation - a handful of copies are out there but you can guess what people are asking for them).  Death... is presented on DVD at 1.85:1 from a fairly scratchy print, battered, but looking better than it ever has (and, shamefully, possibly ever will).   It comes with an audio commentary from the Hysteria Continues pod-casters.  Unfortunately this does not offer a great deal of useful information about the film, sometimes consisting of the commenters merely passing thoughts about the décor or fashion (yes, people, this was 1971 - the stuff that you're wearing will no doubt also look like a joke in forty years!  Or possibly less).  Justin Kerswell comes off as an intelligent chap, often bringing things back on to track.  Aside from the occasional amusing comment or slice of insight, the commentary is not how I'd like to remember the film.  On the other hand, the sitting-with-one's-mates-watching-a-film type of scenario might appeal to some.  In summary though, this is a good disc to own and one much appreciated from the stellar organisation that is Vinegar Syndrome.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Lovely Molly

The beginnings of a potentially happy marriage are lashed after the temporarily elated couple move into the parental home of the bride.  Elements of the father's death and relationship with his daughter remain a mystery - this may or may not have anything to do with the events to come.  Molly's husband, Tim, works away from home frequently and it's during these absences that unusual activity in the house begins to occur, possibly of a supernatural origin.  Molly reverts to a former drug addiction, beginning to psychologically deteriorate under the stress of matters.
Underpinned by a poignant performance from Gretchen Lodge as Molly, I wouldn't say the film is an enjoyable experience, but it does function effectively.  The source of the trouble remains under an ambiguous cloud, which may not suit everyone - is it the spirit of her dead father returning to deliver otherworldly torment, could it be the diminishing grasp on reality of a fragile mind, or is the Devil tearing through to the physical world to claim a broken soul?  Or something else?  I personally like the fact that the viewer has to make up his or her own mind about the proceedings.  Many Paranormal Activity-type occurrences outline possible traditional haunted house goings-on, and in this alone it could be said there is a lack of originality, but the film saves itself through its descent into very disturbing territory.  My blood was chilled for some time after viewing, though I'm not sure if I'll be rushing to go through this anguish again.

I'm not a fan of the digital video look, exhibited here.  There is banding and unattractive chromatics alongside reasonable levels of detail, probably captured as-is by the UK Metrodome Distribution Blu-ray.  Image is 1.78:1, surround sound almost having too much impact.  The disc contains a number of featurettes about the production along with a trailer.  Directed by The Blair Witch Project helmer Eduardo Sánchez, Lovely Molly (2011) can certainly not be criticised for leaving its viewers in an overly cheery state - watch at your peril...

Monday, 8 August 2016

The Sender

After attempting to take his own life a young troubled man winds up incarcerated in a mental institution under the care of an inquisitive psychiatrist.  Trying to help, she is traumatised once she finds that his subconscious chaos is projected on to others in times of stress, causing vivid, undesirable hallucinations in those around him.

Exhibiting shades of Patrick, The Sender (1982) is not exactly directed in an urgent fashion, plodding along without eliciting too much excitement along the way.  Having said that, I did experience one or two moments of unease, plus there is a standout sequence where mayhem explodes during quite a perturbing attempt to 'cure' the young man of his problems.  The female lead, Kathryn Harrold as Gail Farmer is also extremely appealing, combining a subtle, striking beauty with intellect and maternal instinct.
Olive Films, who have released this on Blu-ray in the US, are both greatly appreciated (for the fact that they put catalogue films out on Blu that many other companies wouldn't be bothered with) and in equal measures frustrating (because those films often come without any bells).  The film is presented 1.78:1 and has all the markings of an old transfer - looks reasonably good in many broad daylight sequences, often a bit drab during darker moments.  Overall it's okay, the benefits of a complete overhaul probably not on the horizon.  The sound exhibited a lot of hiss and weakness that I'd associate with an inadequate source.  I suspect the whole thing is taken from an aged 35mm print, and scanned some time ago, although please correct me if you know otherwise.  Still, it's a little better to view this movie here on Blu than either the old DVD that Legend Films put out in 2008, or the concurrent DVD that Olive themselves have released.  On the extras side there is nothing (aside from menu and chapter selection) - it's like going back to the VHS days!  If you're picking up the film for the first time you may as well go with the Blu, however, if you already have the Legend DVD then Olive have not done a huge amount to persuade you to upgrade.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Raventale: Dark Substance of Dharma

I stumbled across Raventale quite by accident recently, whilst browsing Spotify.  I tend to have a trawl through random tracks occasionally in the hope of discovering something great that I've not heard of before, although this is with the intention of buying if I actually like something rather than taking something for nothing (I'm one of those old fashioned individuals who is willing to actually contribute something to an artist who creates work that I'm happy to enjoy...).  Anyway, there was this, which I expected little from given the overwhelming mass of largely derivative Black Metal acts that have appeared over the last quarter of a century.  To be fair to them it's quite difficult not to be derivative if you're a Black Metal act because the genre operates within very narrow parameters by its own definitions and principles.  Raventale, however, somehow managed to catch my attention.  So I bought the CD, Dark Substance of Dharma, which they released in 2015.  It's available to download also (legally) but admittedly I did find the CD very difficult to get hold of, something that adds to its esoteric, underground nature for me, but surely wouldn't do sales much good (this Ukraine act has been going a number of years with plenty of albums behind them it turns out, so I think some improved marketing should be on the cards personally).
Opening track Intra-Mantra is a moody introduction that leads directly into the positively explosive and epic Destroying the Seeds of Karma, I think the track that grabbed me when I initially stumbled on them online.  But this album is no one-hit wonder - the track is immediately followed by the groove-filled riffs of the title track, nicely progressing into some very speedy and again epic metal to monumental effect - between them those two tracks run to over fifteen minutes, but their combined beauty never gets boring.  Following that is the shorter, more chaotic and aggressive Kali's Hunger.  Then we are treated to the unusual Red Laugh's Walking, again a shorter track (this is not a band who creates long, repetitive songs just for the sake of it - looking at you, Maiden and Exodus!) with some urgent riffing mixed in with more mellow segments.  Next up is I am the Black Tara, again returning to epic, fast-paced material with a distinctive melodic edge.  Raventale keep things interesting with tempo changes and a creative drive alongside pleasingly solid production.  ...Black Tara also features quite a beautiful mellow piece of clean guitar giving away hints of Bathory's range of Black and Viking Metal over the years.  The Hecate Enthroned feel is evident on this album, with echoes of the better tracks from Slaughter of Innocence, albeit with a heavier production (something I always thought that album could have benefitted from).  ...Dharma leaves the listener with Last Moon Fermata, a mid-paced closer with some chunky riffs.

I don't frequently buy Black Metal albums these days, even though the genre was a big part of my music history and enjoyment, getting into Bathory early on, then the so-called 2nd wave when all that kicked off at the beginning of the 90s, but I tend to reserve the buying nowadays for stuff that's a bit special.  This is really because there's far too much similar material out there to have hundreds of discs and remain interested.  Raventale is an act that's refreshed my interest and I've listened to this album quite a few times now - thoroughly enjoying its twists, turns, and perceptive approach to Black Metal.  I'm now looking into buying their entire back catalogue (they've released seven albums including this one!).