Berserk - Cries Of Blood and Hate
Unexploded Records
Pagan Black Metal
8 songs (48'55)
Release year: 2006
Berserk, Unexploded Records
Reviewed by Crims

Berserk have returned with their latest release Cries Of Blood and Hate. This follows their re-release of demos from a few years ago. I previously reviewed Rites Of Supremacy and the line-up from that release has largely stayed the same with the exception of Frozen Wind moving from drums to guitars. Musically the band has changed somewhat. On Rites Of Supremacy they played Pagan Black Metal with mostly mid-paced music, repetitive atmosphere building guitars, and occasional spurts of speed. This time around Berserk have taken a more aggressive approach to their music with more blasts and double bass runs. The result is an evolved sound but not necessarily better, or worse for that matter.

Starting out the CD is an acoustic intro called Wooden Woods that also features the first instance of clean vocals on the CD. Eventually Wooden Woods builds up to the more commonly found Black Metal vocal style with very cold sounding guitars. The remainder of the CD features two instrumentals, and 5 full songs all over the 6 minute mark. Berserk does a couple of interesting things here. The riffs are still repeated more than a typical band but they change the rhythms often over the same riff, so it feels like you’re listening to something different. This happens quite often as the band can almost be considered progressive due to the impressive number of changes up found throughout each song. It’s not just clean acoustic breaks, although those do appear, but constant rhythm changes and a lot more riff changes than their previous work. The changes sometimes blend into each other and at other times they are abrupt. Both ways work in the bands favor as each song remains interesting throughout the long lengths.

The guitars change between traditional Black Metal tremolo riffing and Black Metal groove riffs (commonly found in newer Darkthrone and Graveland). Also, featured are slower melody and atmosphere building chord progression that you might hear in a band like Primordial. Behind these riffs are the aforementioned ever changing drum patterns. The new found aggression of the band is based from drums that are generally much faster, however, the guitars tend to be faster and more aggressive as well but it’s not as blatant as the drums. An aspect of this release I liked a lot is the guitars solos. Unfortunately, these excellent mood creating solos are only featured on three songs. It’s a real shame because they add a lot of feeling and texture to the songs in the same way a similar band named Himinbjorg did on their Europa release. Lastly, I should mention the tasteful use of off-beat rhythms. Occasionally Berserk will employ a drum rhythm and guitar rhythm which is completely off-beat from each other. When you first hear it, it sounds awful, but as it repeats a few times it starts to sink in and then you realize the song writing prowess of the band (and if you need another example check out the bass line in the main riff in Opening The Circle; the bass guitar actually builds on the melody… how about that?). Thankfully it’s not a gimmick that is found in every song; I only counted about three uses of it and in a way that makes each use all that more special.

Something that has always made Berserk unique, and continues to do so, is their lyrical topics. Once again, Berserk have embraced their Celtic pagan heritage of northern Spain. Song topics rang from battles against the Holy Roman Empire to stories of betrayal in an ancient clan. All in all the lyrics are a definite highlight of the band and will probably continue to be throughout their career. The actual delivery of the vocals is the commonly found traditional Black Metal, high-end shriek. There is nothing too original about it (the vocals last time around were more mid-range) but the placement is excellent. Clean vocals are also used sparingly and consist of the low-range, almost chant-like passages that many Folk and Viking Metal bands have used before. It works well here and lends itself to the Pagan Metal theme of the lyrics quite nicely.

It certainly seems to be that Berserk is more focused on this release. The songs really have an epic feel to them and it seems that each riff and rhythm change was well thought out and not just thrown together. However, with all that being said since the band has chosen an overall more aggressive approach and less repetition the sound loses some of the atmosphere and mesmerizing aspects of the songs found on their last release. Sort of like how Primordial evolved from Spirit The Earth Aflame to Storm Before Calm. Which version of the band one prefers would be a matter of personal taste. Personally, I like both versions almost equally for different reasons. I did find myself returning to this CD more often and I couldn’t help but take notice of the improved song writing of the band though. So in short, if you like bands Primordial, Himinbjorg, and Graveland you’d do yourself a favor by checking Berserk out. Though they haven’t quite reached the Primordial level of song writing genius yet, if the most recent evolution from release to release is any indication of the future of the band they are not far off.

Killing Songs :
Treason In The Clan, Cries Of Blood And Hate, Opening The Circle, Wound Of Death
Crims quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Berserk that we have reviewed:
Berserk - Rites Of Supremacy reviewed by Crims and quoted 85 / 100
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