Striges - Verum Veterum [Blut & Eisen Prod - 2020]Now here’s a real surprise for fans of Finnish black metal- a new & unexpected release from respected & multi-project linked BM guitarist/songwriter Shatraug – who will be known to most for his work with key Finnish bands like Horna & Sargeist. Striges is somewhat of an international venture- it began in 2007 as a Finnish/ Australian blend- releasing a few demos, but for this first official full length the line-up is a Finnish/ USA blend- with Shatraug- guitar & bass, Finnish drummer LRH/Kassara( Horna, Deathchain,& Trollheim's Grott ), and US vocalist Vaedis( Hellgoat & Viurm).
Verum Veterum( Latin for But Old) is a seven-track & just over the forty-minute album- and as we’ve come to expect from a Shatraug project, we get BM song craft that’s dripping in ghoulish, bleakly grim, yet often memorable & moody riff craft. Yet that said Striges also manages to have it's own identity too- setting them apart from Shatraug other projects- which once again highlights the guitarist talent to collaborate with others.
Before we get stuck into the sonic side of things I must mention the release cover artwork- as it rather nicely stands out from the normal effective-if-somewhat clichéd BM artwork. It’s a decidedly creepy black & white line drawing of a group of seven sinister & grim looking ghouls- who have glowing eyes & are draped in dripping rags/ weeds- with a backdrop of woodland & a mountain peak. And this artwork nicely nods towards the murky, and at point’s darker metallic moments present in a few of the songs here.
The album opens with one of its highlights the just over seven minutes of “Scourge of the Ages”- this moves between pummelling & grimly cascading riffing, and more mid-paced bounding doomed metallics- the former featured intensely bayed vocals, while the latter takes in gloomy crooning- that sounds a little like a more depressive Peter Steel. Latter we have bleakly descending harmonics, rapidly galloping pace, and blackly shrieked & latter broody chanted vocals of “Seven Ghouls from the Mountains of Mashu”- which clearly references the cover art. There’s "Entwined in Shadows, Drawn to Death” which nicely shifts between a grimly raging dulcimer like guitar riff, and more swaying & darkly grand BM clamouring. Through-out the album remains both fairly memorable- yet- grimly raging in its attack; with the vocals having the right balance of intensity & dark atmospherics- all making for a fairly distinctive & highly consistent BM record.
In this day & age when the BM scene is swamped with mediocre and passable releases- it’s great to see a record like Verum Veterum appearing, as it celebrates & prefects the classic BM sound, yet adds in a few new & distinctive touches too.Roger Batty