There is really no way to get around stating the obvious: Algaion belongs
to the legions of bands that jumped on the Black Metal bandwagon in the early-to-mid 90s. Hailing from Sweden, they actually
had more of a Greek sound, in a way. One can easily hear the influence of such acts as Rotting Christ and Thou Art Lord. Their
first full-length album, Oimai Algeiou (Greek for "The Awaiting of Pain") was released
by Full Moon Productions in 1994.
I discovered this album through Marcus Karlssons (now defunct) review page, as one
of the earliest albums that I learned about through the internet, back in the late 90s. The bands that I checked out were
always hit and miss, yet Algaion proved to be a little of both. There was a lot to appreciate on this L.P. though there were
equal amounts of cheesiness to try ignoring.
To cover the positive aspects, one has to give credit for the great tremolo
riffs that are full of misery and a dark atmosphere. This definitely does not compare to the likes of The Somberlain, yet it still possesses some amount of worth. To accompany the mournful guitar melodies are
the miserable vocals of Mårten Björkman. His sound is sort of a tormented shriek, though never quite to the levels of Burzum
or Dictius Te Necare-era Bethlehem. The result is quite good, though might have been
even better with less reverb. The music is rather fast-paced throughout the album, though the atmosphere is quite sorrowful.
It never reaches levels of grimness to match their Norwegian counterparts, but they fall in line, quite well, with the Greek
bands that influenced them.
As for the negatives, the primary characteristic that most detracts from the atmosphere
is the horrid drum machine. Other bands have been able to utilize this tool to a greater degree of success, while Algaion
makes it completely obvious that it is fake and this takes away from the overall feeling. Had they opted to go for a more
simplistic approach, it would not have been so noticeable, but it is clear that they had no intentions of hiding this treachery
and it becomes distracting at times. The other thing that causes this album to lose some points and thus kills its general
mood is the use of female vocals in the final song, "The Last Delusion". Female vocals have no place in Black Metal, and they
never have. Even the brief spoken word part from Venom's "Welcome to Hell" is a scar upon the face of Black Metal, and bands
like Celtic Frost only made it worse in the following years.
All in all, Oimai Algeiou
is an enjoyable album is you are able to suffer the foul drum machine and somehow skip through the female vocals, during the
middle of the last track. The miserable guitar riffs and howling vocals make this well worth giving a listen, and it is also
interesting to hear a Swedish band adopting more Greek influences than those of their Scandinavian brethren.
(4 Sept. 2011)