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
(4 Sept. 2011)