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Hail the Black Imperial Hornsign (1998)

Hail the Black Imperial Hornsign is the second demo from the Finnish black metal band known as Pest. This was a side-project from members of Horna, seemingly possessed by the need to pay tribute to the early Bathory releases. This cassette was released on Demonion Productions in 1998, though one could easily mistake this for having risen from the black abyss well over a decade earlier. The overall sound and style is in the same vein as The Return..., with a bit of Under the Sign of the Black Mark tossed in for good measure.

I first heard this band on a friend's radio show, late one night. The song "Satanic Winter" was mixed in with a lot of 80s black and thrash metal and fit in so well that I did not bother to question its origins. I simply assumed that it was some hidden gem that I had missed out on, but was fortunate enough to eventually discover anyway. Upon learning that it was only a couple years old, I was pleasantly surprised to know that there existed bands that still had the desire to keep the old sound alive.

This demo is dripping with old school spirit, mostly a morbid obsession with old Bathory. There is nothing here that would have seemed out of place on Quorthon's second or third releases. The music is mostly mid-paced, even the thrashier parts are never all that fast. Only "Riding Under the Sign of the Horns" picks up the pace and gives a nod to the second wave. There is a bit of synth mixed in, but only to add an eerie effect, rather than turning this into some symphonic trash. The atmosphere is dark and ugly, yet not completely oppressive. The main riffs of "Satanic Winter" and "Towards the Bestial Armageddon" are energetic enough that you are more likely to spend the night headbanging than sacrificing virgins under the full moon. However, there are some sections that are a bit more pitch-black than the rest.

The production is pretty good for the material, with the riffs coming through very clearly and yet still retaining enough of an ugly tone to suit the material. The rumbling of the bass is audible, adding another dimension of apocalyptic gloom to the proceedings. The mix is really appropriate, with everything being at the right level. Drums are clear as well, but not so much that they smother the rest. The vocals are also features in the proper way, not drowning out the music as some bands like to do. This is very much driven by the guitar riffs and, as such, the guitar is the most dominant element here. For a mere cassette demo, the sound here is remarkable and it has all the quality of a mid-80s studio album.

Hail the Black Imperial Hornsign is a high-quality release and one that is sure to appeal to fans of old school black/thrash. The Bathory influence is undeniable and you may find yourself listening to "Born For Burning" by the time this is over, just because this really puts you in the mood to revisit the classics. This is the strongest release from Pest, and the most consistent. Nonetheless, the primary way anyone will obtain this now is to pick up the 2003 compilation CD, Hail the Black Metal Wolves of Belial, which features this demo as well as the following mini-albums. Seek this out and listen at full volume.
(19 Nov. 2011)


Belial's Possessed Wolves is the second 7" E.P. from Pest, released on Northern Heritage Records in 1999 and limited to 200 copies. The material does not follow the style established on their previous releases, entirely, and this inconsistency may be one reason why the project was dropped. Here, listeners are treated to a couple of songs that sound as if they are from different bands, almost.

The first one is "Sabbath of Lust", which is a mid-paced track that creates an occult feeling, at first, though the dominant vibe is more in line with death metal than black metal. The vocals are deeper and some of the riffs follow typical death metal patterns, along with the boring drumming. Otherwise, this is mildly reminiscent of old Beherit, but not to any extreme degree. There is a decent lead solo, later in the track, but the stupid female vocals and ridiculous attempts at sounding evil just expose this as a poor effort, indeed.

"Possessed Wolves' Howling" is far better, starts out with an intro that seems to be trying to create a dark feeling. The Bathory influence is still present here, but not as prevalent. This is a fairly decent Black / Thrash song, with decent riffs and an amusing chorus as the pronunciation reminds one of Gollum, from The Lord of the Rings, saying it as "wolveses". This would have been a better track without the deeper vocals added in, but that is more a matter of personal preference. The final riff and lead solo are pure 80s worship, leaning toward more of a traditional metal sound than the rest.

Neither of the songs are bad, but only one is worth repeated listens. Belial's Possessed Wolves is an average release, but not as good as the ones that Pest offered up before. This is definitely not worth tracking down, as the songs are available on the Hail the Black Metal Wolves of Belial compilation.
(21 Nov. 2011)

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