SHADOWS GROUND - Phantom of Dead Star (SCHATTEKULT Produktionen CD 2017)
It seems like considers Shadows Ground as one of their most important bands. And I cannot be happier about it. First there was " Mons" - truly killer album, and then in 2017 another two CDs came out – the newest album of this Ukrainian band titled "The Roots", but also one of their older recordings, "Phantom of Dead Star". It was previously released on cassette only (originally released in 2011) and I have to say that it's weird that it had to wait so long for the CD version. For me personally it's yet another truly great album from Shadows Ground, I like it even more than "The Roots", so it's surprising that it's so little known.
Originally "Phantom of Dead Star" contained five lengthy songs of the cold, pure black metal played in the classic Norwegian formula. In my previews reviews of Shadows Ground I already mentioned names like , , , Mayhem, (early) Enslaved and so on... And . Tempo wise "Phantom of Dead Star" has many slower fragments, so the whole album is more balanced, with all sort of different riffs, ideas or auras. This is why it's so interesting to listen to it and the fact that some songs are even nine minutes long doesn't affect the listening in any negative way. There's nothing dull or uninteresting about this album, it's just top notch from start to finish.
Even when the song is nine minutes long, there's enough ideas to keep you interested. The opening song has a lot of that classic " Hunger"- one dimensional, repetitive and simplistic riffing, but the slower section of it, with some Attila like vocals blows me away. Then "From the Dark Past and Into the Predetermined Future" again begins in aggressive and furious manner, but soon the tempo slows down and the music starts to sound like some of the best old albums. The melancholic, misanthropic aura is simply fantastic and just like on every song from this album, here also the is just great. "In the Round Dance of Visions" is another real jewel, another slower song, but once again so damn good that I often play it over and over again, because it's probably the most memorable and catchy tune on the album (somehow this word "catchy" fits it, even though we speak of the raw, simplistic black metal). I'm also glad that this song, along the classic grim black metal playing, has an obvious East European flavour, thanks to the vocals of in it (who, as I can see in the booklet, recorded all instruments and vocals for the album - I give him a great bonus for it!).
As I mentioned, this CD version of "Phantom of Dead Star" contains also two recently recorded bonus songs. And I have to say that they sound a bit different to other recent recordings from Shadows Ground. "I am the Blood of Thy Land" is very slow paced, eerie and melancholic, yet dark and melodic piece very reminiscent to and other such bands. But this song is just spectacular and I believe it's my favourite Shadows Ground tune ever. The other song is called "In the Castle of Restless Souls (Talking with the Dead)" is also full of surprises. It begins in very minimalist, raw black metal way, which can even take you back to the 80's black metal. But then a fantastic motif with choral singing starts and the atmosphere really becomes sacrilegious. Wow, it just blew me away. With such great ideas and fantastic performance, I have no doubt that Shadows Ground is a band, which deserves a full attention and support from every black metal maniac. I know there are many similar bands around and that Shadows Ground may be ignored by some of you. But damn, if you're fan of traditional 90's black metal, give them a chance. I am sure you won't regret it.
Standout tracks: "From the Dark Past and into the Predetermined Future", "In the Castle of Restless Souls (Talking with the Dead)", "I am the Blood of Thy Land", "In the Round Dance of Visions"