Blood On Snow
13 September 2010
By Tom Dare
In already packed black metal market – especially given the rather niche nature of the movement in the first place – there are a limited number of ways to get noticed. It is especially difficult if you’re British, given the UK’s (somewhat undeserved) poor reputation when it comes to Black Metal. You’ve got to do something brand spanking new, or wow people with sheer quality. Eastern Front make noises in the direction of the former, but in the long run though, is the strength of their music able to keep that attention once it’s been gained?
Given their name, you probably expect Eastern Front to have quite a military theme running through them. Add that to the cover of their debut record Blood On Snow, you might even start drawing conclusions as to how they sound. If the monochrome photo of a World War II tank is making you think of Marduk, and the “Eastern” bit is suggesting an eastern European BM band – Drudkh, for example – you are not far from the truth. This is not quite the whole story, however.
Certainly there is a hefty dose of both bands, although the Marduk influence is an interesting one. While Panzer Division Marduk is an (almost too) obvious reference point, the doom-laden passages from more recent records crop up from time to time as well. The out-and-out brutality of the blasphemous Swedes is all over the first half of ‘Battle Of Smolensk’ for example, while opener ‘Stalinorgel’ seems to owe equal amounts to both them and classic Mayhem.
Initial concerns that Blood On Snow may prove a touch too derivative do not last long however. Partially this is through the use of those doom-laden passages; partially this is through the injection of slightly Slavic sounding guitars and mildly folky elements; partially this is through the restrained but judicious use of effects and samples. Mainly though, it is simply the engaging, driving nature of the music drawing you along. It makes you ignore anything you may have heard before. To use a military analogy, you do not criticise a general’s tactics when he’s giving the opposition a damn good thrashing.
Watch the video to ‘Blood On Snow’ by Eastern Front here:
With a basis of razor-sharp riffs that will knot your guts, machine gun drumming and fearsome vocals that shift between a high shriek and a low roar, Blood On Snow does exactly what it should. The adrenaline begins to pump from the outset, the atmosphere drifts between aggression, horror and mourning and the dreadful cold permeating every second cuts right to the bone. The musicianship is fine, highly proficient playing of evocative ideas being matched by compositional skill, fully utilising each element and developing moods through the progression of styles. The breaks in intensity come at the exact point necessary- when tension is at its height it drops back, never letting you settle or your attention wander. The absolutely fucking hopeless misery never slacks off, but through changing the nature of the bleakness from one moment to the next, it never loses its efficacy.
Eastern Front may not be quite as original as they strive to be, but what they do is effective, well crafted and compelling. All the right black metal buttons are pushed, and the individual identity they obviously desire may come with time. What matters most- quality, and the ability to create both atmosphere and the disquieted feel in the pit of your belly essential to black metal – they have already achieved. An impressive first outing.
Sounds like: Marduk, Drudkh, what the Enemy At The Gates soundtrack should have been
Top tracks: Blood On Snow, Motherland, At The Gates Of Moscow
Eastern Front – Blood On Snow tracklisting:
Battle Of Smolensk
Blood On Snow
Unleash The Panzer Division
At The Gates Of Moscow
Where Warriors Once Fell