Written by Espi Kvlt
Ealdfeond – The Red Terror
Neoclassical Black Metal from Wiltshire, England
Self-released on March 20, 2021
One look at the cover art for this album and you can guess that I was extremely excited to listen to it immediately. I saw the first song was titled “Strange Fruit,” and my eagerness grew even more, hoping it would be a cover of the incredible Billie Holiday song (which it was). This album goes on many different paths. Some of them work, some don’t, but all in all, I enjoyed the wild ride. This is the first work from this band I’ve ever heard, and I was unable to find any other bands or information in general when I looked up the artist behind it. All I know is that Alex Hall is the mastermind behind this thing and guest musicians teamed up with them, though at what capacity, I’m not entirely sure.
This album starts off incredibly strong with the “Strange Fruit” cover. It would have been so easy to mess this up, and I was skeptical a black metal version of this song would work, but it did. It opens softly, with somber piano guiding you in, and then it begins to distort until it’s a full-on black metal song, complete with the nasty vocals you’d expect. I wouldn’t even call this cover a black metal cover, I’d call it a cover of “Strange Fruit” with blackened elements. The horn in the background certainly keeps the jazz steady throughout, never veering too far away from its roots, which is a great thing.
I really thought the vocals worked on that song, and I really thought they worked on a black metal song later on, “Days of Violence.” Unfortunately, however, I was not the biggest fan of the black metal vocals on many of the other songs. The second song on this album features a couple things I think really worked and a couple things that didn’t work so well for me. There are a lot of samples on this. It gets to be too much, especially when they’re so long. The sample on this song goes for a full minute and a half and by then, I’m already checking out. Luckily, the bass pulls me back in. The bass on this entire record is sexy as hell and kept me excited throughout. My other issue is that it seems like there was an attempt to sound like Summoning, but the black metal vocals on this track and many others just didn’t work for me. They’re a bit grating and I honestly think the clean vocals throughout with just a couple exceptions would have been better. The third song sadly suffers from the same issue. The harsh vocals are completely drenching the instrumentation in their harsh sound and they aren’t interesting enough to justify it. If they had been completely cut or had been replaced by cleans, this would have worked much better.
This brings us to the fourth track, “Undeserving Poor.” This is the highlight of the album. I have to admit, when I was listening to the third track, I was getting a bit anxious about writing this review, because I want to adore it so badly. And this is where I did adore it. The cleans on this sound just like Bruce Dickinson. If they had been present throughout most of the other songs, it would have elevated it to another level. I’m able to fully appreciate the many instruments behind the vocals now that they’re not blanketing the rest of the music in distortion and angry vocals. The bass that opens up this song pulled me into it immediately. There’s a sick guitar solo in it. What I’m saying is, this project would work better as a NWOBHM band with some blackened influences instead of vice/versa. The same is true of the song “Morning Star,” another Iron Maiden-sounding song. Strings open it up this time, and they sound incredibly foreboding. And then that amazing vocal performance smashes into the song and it’s just magnetic. The guitar on this song shreds even harder than the last, feeling like it should be placed in an epic battle scene.
Lastly, I will say that I greatly enjoyed the harsh vocals on “Days of Violence.” Unlike the other tracks with the issues I mentioned earlier, they worked on here. And I think it’s because they were more subdued on this track. They sounded almost like an instrument themselves instead of taking over the song. And the song reminded me of Carach Angren. It had that gothic black metal feel which works a lot better with these vocals than the Summoning-style from earlier. If there were a few of these sprinkled throughout an otherwise NWOBHM album, this would be solid.
The Bottom Line
This album is trying to do a ton of things at once, and while I highly respect the ambition, it needs to be tightened up for the next album and not feel like it’s trying to be multiple different bands at once. I have my opinion: this works the best as a NWOBHM band, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have any black metal at all, because a couple of the songs on here really worked. I of course always appreciate a nice anti-capitalist black metal band, and the messaging in here was wonderful. I’m looking forward to seeing where the band goes from here.