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Eastern Front - "Blood On Snow" (CD)

Eastern Front - "Blood On Snow" CD cover image

"Blood On Snow" track listing:

1. Stalinorgel (4:47)
2. Battle Of Smolensk (5:11)
3. Blood On Snow (8:29)
4. Unleash The Panzer Division (4:08)
5. Motherland (6:45)
6. Dvenadtzat Kilometrov Ot Moskvy (3:38)
7. At The Gates Of Moscow (6:58)
8. Where Warriors Once Fell (9:16)

Reviewed by on January 24, 2011

"'Blood On Snow' has many of the quirks and flaws of the genre, and it takes until the second half for the band to loosen up."

War-torn cities, crumpling infrastructures, decrepit bodies buried in ice, the sounds of battle always a constant presence. While that may sound like a nightmare scenario, Eastern Front uses these horrific images as inspiration for their debut album, “Blood On Snow.” The band is willing to tone down the black metal-fueled intensity for atmospheric purposes. The eight tracks are all centralized by the horrors of warfare, a topic that isn’t quite uplifting or easy to absorb. “Blood On Snow” has many of the quirks and flaws of the genre, and it takes until the second half for the band to loosen up.

It isn’t that the first half of the album is a throwaway collection of filler, but the band seems too tied by a conventional mindset. A peaceful acoustic break in “Battle Of Smolensk” is the first attempt to deviate from standard fare, though it comes off as abrupt and scattershot. The title track is a chore to get through, taking eight minutes to slowly edge its way through the cliche slow breakdown and extended raspy shrieks. The band seems to have a sick fascination with starting songs with a prolonged shriek that sounds like it was cut-and-pasted from the same vocal track.

“Motherland” begins the period of ascension for Eastern Front. They grow in confidence, while the experimentation is brought into plain sight. The acoustic intro bleeds darkness, leading the charge into explosive tremolo riffs and maddening blast beats. The orchestration-heavy “Dvenadtzat Kilometrov Ot Moskvy” is a well-needed interlude that sets up back-to-back epics to close out “Blood On Snow.” The nine-minute “Where Warriors Once Fell” is the pinnacle of the band’s brief career, an encompassing opus that feels like an entire battle rolled into one track. From the subtle use of stringed instruments to the hair-raising 30 second scream at the end, Eastern Front throws everything they have into the mix.

This isn’t a technical masterpiece, which can also be said for the majority of albums in the genre. The band shows that they know how to play well enough to write compelling songs that can stretch for extended periods with few issues. For a black metal album, the production is effective. The biggest surprise here is not how decent it is, but how great the bass sounds. Always the bastard son of the black metal musical family, Eastern Front gives the bass center-stage; leads are galore and thumping melodies bring distinction to the white noise.

“Blood On Snow” is a grower, that’s for sure. The band tries to think outside the limited perspective of black metal, but so many bands have been doing that lately that it isn’t as fresh-sounding as it should be. The latter section of the album is the strongest, where the band strips away from the shackles of their roots. For a debut album, the groundwork is there to be fleshed off of in the future.

Highs: Great bass work, a strong second half of music, back-to-back epics at the end

Lows: First half flounders under the weight of conventional songwriting, the extended shrieks in each song gets repetitive

Bottom line: Black metal that uses acoustics and slow passages for moody ambience, but suffers from an uneven first half.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 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)