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Naer Mataron - "Praetorians" (CD)

Naer Mataron - "Praetorians" CD cover image

"Praetorians" track listing:

1. Anti-Celestial Campaign (1:09)
2. Ostara (5:52)
3. Sun Wheel (7:50)
4. Death Cast A Shadow Over You (5:46)
5. Secret Heritage (7:20)
6. Astral Anthology (0:43)
7. Sol Invictus (4:59)
8. Incarcerating Gallantry (4:44)
9. The Eternal Pest (6:51)
10. Eagle`s Nest (4:44)
11. Praetorians (9:18)

Reviewed by on December 4, 2008

"'Praetorians' will probably delight hardcore fans of the earliest albums in the genre, but anyone who wants innovation, progressiveness, or even a more modern sound will find it hard to make it through the entire disc."

Naer Mataron has been putting out old world style black metal for almost fifteen years from the heart of Greece, which is a lot like Norway’s little brother in the extreme metal world. After going through a revolving door of band members and even accusations of stealing their name and early songs from another Greek outfit, the band still continues to put out classic black metal albums that pull heavily from the legends and stories of their ancestral homeland. “Praetorians” will probably delight hardcore fans of the earliest albums in the genre, but anyone who wants innovation, progressiveness, or even a more modern sound will find it hard to make it through the entire disc.

The band signed onto Season of Mist, a label that is near legendary status in the underground metal scene, for the release of “Praetorians” after their old label Black Lotus went belly up. Counting an early demo that Naer Mataron released, the album also marks the fourth vocalist change in the band’s history. Despite all the alterations there isn’t much of anything in “Praetorians” that is revolutionary or that will draw any borderline black metal fans over to the darker side of the fence.

The vocal styling is actually one of the biggest drawbacks on an album full of flaws. Some will love the evil croaking nature of it, while others will wonder why someone is doing a terrible Donald Duck impression with a bad head cold. The croaking style of growling reaches an unfortunately silly level when the vocalist attempts what would normally be a long primal scream or grunt by any other band. When done with Naer Mataron’s approach it sounds a bit like the vocalist is having a particularly hard time with a bowel movement. Like some of the old school black metal acts they also use a few moaning cries in the background that are only as serious as the listener is willing to take it. There are some infrequent uses of screaming vocals layered on top of the normal croaks which are much less grating and easier to get into.

Another throwback to the early days of the style is the non-stop blast beats that are present in almost every second of every song on the entire disc. The blasting gets so repetitive that it actually sounds like the band recorded a ten second loop of the same drum beat and then played it over, and over, and over for the entire duration of the album, which actively takes away from the enjoyment of the music. A few tracks, such as “Secret Heritage,” throw in minor drum beat variations every now and again, but they are few and very far between. The guitar parts are all played well and the guitarist shows a good deal of skill at his craft, but unfortunately much like the drum beats there is enough repetition in the riffs that the songs meld into one other and it becomes hard to distinguish them from each other.

“Praetorians” does boast one improvement over earlier releases, and that is that the entire album does have a surprisingly good production. All of the parts come together exceedingly well in the mixing, with the exception of the bass of course, as this is old school black metal after all. Considering that the bassist is the only remaining original member it seems odd that he wouldn’t press for a more forceful bass sound.

The music that Near Mataron produces is very much an acquired taste, with their odd vocals, constant blasting drums, and highly repetitive guitars. Serious black metal fans may get their money’s worth, but anyone else would do well to seek new tunes elsewhere.

Highs: Evil old school black metal feel.

Lows: Silly vocals and constant repetition.

Bottom line: For serious black metal enthusiasts only.

Rated 2 out of 5 skulls
2 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)