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Count Raven - Mammons War

Label: I Hate Records
Format: CD download
Released: 2009
Reviewed By: Mark Gromen
Rating: 7/10

In the early 90s, down times for Candlemass, suffering through hibernation and experimenting with non-Messiah fronted sounds, countrymen Count Raven were something of a substitute treat, sporting vintage Ozzy-era Sabbathy dirges for US college radio geeks and European diehards.


After the ’90 "Storm Warning" debut, Christian Lindersson was stolen away by St. Vitus and guitarist Dan Fondelius (he of the Osbourne pipes, scary how similar!) began fronting the then trio. This all pre-dates the stoner phenomena. A small Swedish label has issued the first Count Raven platter since ’96 "Messiah Of Confusion", although the reformed band has been on the Euro-festival for a few years now. Sadly, after all these years, they decided to release it months after Heaven & Hell, who were on the road (getting headlines) as part of one of the biggest tours of the spring/summer. Timing is everything!

The disc begins with an upbeat ‘The Poltergeist’, before wallowing into the symphonic accompanied, bell tolling quagmire paradoxically entitled ‘Scream’. Much of the music sounds straight out of the early 70s, no small feat in the digital age. Case in point, the mid-tempo ‘Nashira’, bludgeoning lows and heavy Iommi inspired riffs. The electronic bits in the title cut are definitely a step into the new millennium (backed by synthesized orchestral strings and basically devoid of characteristic guitar), but it showcases Fondelius’ voice, aping solo Ozzy ballads like ‘Mama I’m Coming Home’. The Frankenstein zombie stomp of ‘A Lifetime’ is the mind-numbing rhythms the Ravens do so well. Ending with hand drummed bongos and acoustic guitar only solidifies the Sabbath connection (think ‘Planet Caravan’).

More acoustic guitar in the subdued ‘To Kill A Child’ (brutal title), which actually reminds me of (Dio-era) ‘Country Girl’ in parts: not the spoken voiceover near its conclusion. At 3:17, ‘To Love, Wherever You Are’ is the shortest track (less than half some others), basically a slow acoustic ballad. ‘Magic Is…’ gets things rolling downhill once more, picking up intensity and beefy bottom end, but ends with abrupt fade out, like some producer/editor said “Enough improvising” and turned down the volume, as the band played on. ‘Seven Days’ feels like it might take that long to reach its end, painstakingly grinding through classic tones, before suddenly coming to life at the 7:30 mark! The disc closes with the synthesized ‘Increasing Deserts’.

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