VOTA REVIEW: Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam, Countess

When you think of Black Metal, Holland is not the first country that springs to mind. However the Netherlands is home to some fantastic BM bands like Urfaust, Murw, Hekel, Mordeahoth and Cultus to name a few. None of these hold such cult status (with the exception of Urfaust these days) as Countess, though. Formed in the early 90's and heavily influenced by the music of Bathory and Venom, Countess unleashed its orthodox Black Metal into the underground tape trading circuit, and now 20 years on and with a vast discography Countess are still going strong. The musical vision of Orlok (the sole member of the project) has changed in style somewhat over the years, ranging from Epic Pagan Metal to good old fashioned Rock & Roll but the core foundation and spirit remains the same. Countess really are a ‘Marmite’ band - you either love ‘em or hate ‘em, but you cannot deny the dedication and passion behind the music. And just like marmite, I love it.


Today we are going to go back to the early days of the band and take a look at the cassette version of 1995's Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam. After two extremely raw and somewhat poorly produced demos (even for my tastes), this album was certainly a turning point for Orlok. The sound levels are a lot more balanced and for the first time Orlok plays all instruments on the the record whilst the drums are taken care of by the computer. With it being the mid 90's the drum sounds aren't so great, though it certainly takes nothing away from the music. Also this was Countess' first album recorded in a proper studio, though the music still remains as raw and low fi in it's approach and retains a real 90's Black Metal feel to it. The guitar has a real raw and distorted buzz saw sound to it with a nice thick sturdy bass sitting underneath it all whilst synth is used sparingly to add extra atmosphere to the songs. The addition of some nice, big doomy riffs mixed with the frantic tremolo picking really gives the album character and a sort of narrative to the songs as they play out before you. Mix that with Orlok's unique shrieking vocals and lyrics mainly about Countess Bathory, vampires and Satan it all begins to conjure up images of gothic castles shrouded in mist in the dim of night silhouetted against a blood red moon.

It's certainly one of those records that needs to be sat through as a whole, but there is one really bizarre track that stands out. ‘Blood on my lips’ is a strange acoustic number, a ballad of sorts but with shrieking Black Metal vocals. From the lyrics it can only be described as a vampire love story (this sort of subject matter isn't really my cup of tea) but as odd as it sounds the contrast against the rest of the album makes for a really interesting song musically. Overall this is a nice solid album and marks the first serious effort from Countess. It certainly lacks some of the charm and magic moments of the later records but contains some dirty, solid riffs and stands as a great starting point for people who want to get into the band but are overwhelmed by the size of the discography.


With Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam Orlok showed us all what Countess was all about and laid the foundations for the excellent records that followed. If you haven't taken the time to listen to the band before I certainly recommend checking them out.


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