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A Hail to the Faceless Angels (1994)
 

For those that have never been all that impressed with the output of Setherial, it might be recommended that you set aside twenty minutes or so and give a listen to their first demo. A Hail to the Faceless Angels is probably the best thing that these guys ever released. While such praise may only be in relation to the descending level of quality from this point on, these tracks do possess some merit of their own.

The sound is what one would expect from a demo of this time period. This quality of production really suits the music moreso than the somewhat cleaner sound of the following full-length, Nord. It is a little difficult to say for sure, as my tape is a bit worn, but it works for me. Stylistically, the songwriting is a little less complicated and could stem from the band having not yet fully acquainted themselves with Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse. That said, there are still regular tempo changes, with a seemingly equal amount of slower sections mixed in with the more fast-paced riffs. The music possesses more of the typical Swedish sense of melody, as demonstrated by tracks such as "The Reborn Darkness" and "As a Shadow", which are clearly influenced by Dissection. The latter does include a more Death Metal-oriented passage that does not fit in with the rest, however. The vocals really seem to shine on "The Ancient Sphere", during the slower parts, one can detect a sense of sincerity in the delivery. There are still bits of synth in use, but it is kept to a minimum and never really detracts from the rest of the instruments. There are times when the drumming is a little overactive, but the nature of the recording means that they are sufficiently buried in the background.

A Hail to the Faceless Angels is an average offering of mid-90s Black Metal. It should certainly appeal to fans of Dissection (which the band members certainly were). Setherial were absolutely not alone in creating a musical project more to emulate those which they appreciated, in an attempt to simply make music in that vein. They were never really the best, but this demo is worth giving a shot.
 
(3 Aug. 2015)

 
 

Released in 1996, Nord is the follow-up album to In the Nightside Eclipse. Unfortunately, it was released by Setherial and not Emperor. However, upon first listen, most listeners would hardly be able to tell a difference. Indeed, it would seem that these Swedes had their eye on the Norwegian Black Metal scene and could hardly take notice of the musical movement in their own country until a year or so later, when they decided to rip off Dark Funeral.

Musically, Nord is rather solid. Outside of the fact that songs like "In the Still of a Northern Fullmoon" and "Över Det Blodtäckta Nord" are much too long, the songwriting has little to complain about. In the case of the lengthier tracks, it simply comes down to the fact that, unless you are a musical genius, you should not be attempting to go past the nine or ten minute mark, lest you risk sounding too repetitious or convoluted. Everything here is standard fare for a Scandinavian Black Metal album from this period. The vocals, production, composition and overall atmosphere are exactly what one would expect. The sound is crisp and a little cold, while being dirty enough to keep an underground feeling. The bit of synth that is utilized is done somewhat tastefully, and it never really comes out of the background and dominates the sound, as many other bands allowed.

Really, there are no surprises on this record. While this can be good if you need another dose of this all-too-familiar sound, in order to help the real classics stand out all the more, it comes off as rather generic and uninspired. Of course, there are some good riffs to be found, but it has all been heard before, and there is also the knowledge that the band would not even stick to this style, instead opting to hop on a different bandwagon by the time they recorded their next full-length. While not being a total clone band, there just is not enough original thought or going on here to warrant any level of respect for Setherial. Had they mustered the energy to display some level of talent, beyond mimicking their favourite bands, perhaps things would be different. Pick up Nord only if you are desperate for a handful of throwaway tracks that would have fit nicely on In the Nightside Eclipse. Otherwise, just stick with higher quality bands and skip this.
 
(4 Sept. 2011)

 
 

Lords of the Nightrealm is the sophomore effort from Sweden's masters of mimicry, Setherial. While their first record was clearly intended to carry on the style that Emperor utilized on In the Nightside Eclipse, the band set their sights a little closer to home, the second time around. Their new heroes seemed to be Dark Funeral. The abomination that resulted, in early 1998, was a pathetic tenth-rate copy of the material on The Secrets of the Black Arts, so bad that it made Vobiscum Satanas sound like a serious album.

The production is overdone, for a Black Metal release. Everything is clear and well-defined, with every generic riff coming through with remarkable clarity. It definitely sounds more polished than their last offering, though that one hardly boasted an underground production, in the first place. The riffs have absolutely no power and the drumming has an annoying 'clicky' quality. This album is oozing with the filth of modernity, from the horrible sound to the awful material.

Musically, this is terribly uninspiring. The members of Setherial are, obviously, capable musicians. On a practical level, there is no question regarding whether or not they can handle their instruments. The problem is that they are unable to think for themselves; i.e. all of their material is highly derivative of other bands, without a single shred of original thought added into the mix. When they were composing the songs that would become Nord, Emperor was rather popular. Following this, Dark Funeral had become a trendy band within the Black Metal scene, so they did their best to imitate them instead. Even worse, they were unable to do a convincing job. One has to wonder about the possibility of them obtaining an advance copy of Vobiscum Satanas, as this actually sounds more like a copy of that album than of Dark Funeral's debut L.P. This record is filled with double-bass drums that dominate the sound, weak and generic guitar riffs and comical vocals that try so hard to sound evil and diabolical, but come off as cheesy and cartoonish.

Lords of the Nightrealm is an absolute waste of time. Anyone that thinks this is the epitome of Black Metal must have just discovered the sub-genre within the past week or so. There is nothing on here that ranks above mediocre, at best, and the level of plagiarism is painful. Setherial is and always has been a joke. Avoid this at all costs.
 
(14 Oct. 2011)
















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