Following heavily in the footsteps of folk-tinged black metal acts such as Darkthrone and Gorgoroth comes Finland’s own White Death, a band of newcomers that aren’t afraid to revisit the classic tropes of the genre. White Death’s whimsical breed of Satanism is a breath of fresh air for the modern BM scene that takes pages from acts old and new to create an album that sounds both familiar and refreshing at the same time. White Death’s self-titled is much more than rehashed riffs and uninspired praise for Satan – I mean, don’t get me wrong, these Finns clearly love Satan, but their approach is a more thoughtful and majestic one.
The production on White Death is clearer and more refined than most albums from the second wave of Norwegian black metal, but the album retains the cold and dead atmosphere that brings in a new dimension of evil to the music. The production also seems to favor the drumming, which is handled spectacularly and deserves the focus that it got. The entire release is tight, fast-paced, and mystical in the same vein as Pentagram and other early Gorgoroth releases. The case with the vocal style is no different; high pitched screeches that manage to be malicious and relatively understandable only reinforce the Scandinavian feeling of White Death, while still holding true to some of the quirks of the Finnish black metal scene. Clean vocals are introduced briefly in the last track, but their short appearance makes for a very strong finisher with “White Death’s Power.”
The most admirable facet of White Death, however, is the diversity on the album. Every track is consistent with the next thematically, but they each sound distinct enough to stand on their own. Nearly every riff included is a memorable one; few, if any, of the riffs can be considered filler. “Goat Emperor” and “Warpath” stand out even more than the rest by serving as a nonstop onslaught of beautifully written and played riffs. There’s some fluctuation in the soundscape, with a noticable shift from charmingly medieval to blatantly evil between “Born from the Unholy Fire” and “Immortal Hunter of the Moon,” and it makes for an interesting listen that holds your attention from start to finish.
Call it a hunch, but I don’t think the WWII sniper that the band is named after ever “spit on the corpse of Jesus Christ.” Nevertheless, this incarnation of White Death has provided music fans everywhere with a strong fantasy-infused black metal album that is undoubtedly going to be making an appearance on some end of the year lists. White Death is simultaneously a black metal throwback and a promising look into the future of Finnblack, and all that without any glaring flaws to pick at.
White Death is now available physically and digitally from Werewolf Record’s Bandcamp page.