From The Celtiberian Woods

Our hearts pump brimming blood of hate and our bodies will be the seed which, fed by our blood, will give rise to an oak grove. Every oak tree will contain the soul of a dead warrior. The forest will symbolize the eternal union of these souls. The above passage is from the song “Forest of souls in the wolf’s land,” on the debut album from Spain’s Berserk. A talented newcomer to the scene, …From the Celtiberian Woods is a potent addition to the black metal library. This corpse painted pagan band owes much to Graveland and Immortal and Burzum, and could fall squarely in the category of bands that copy with precision. Luckily, these guys have the talent to add layers to that base. Many bands mimic the founders, and some play that sound better than those bands. Berserk does not copy any band directly, what they do is absorb all their influences, like Darkthrone, Enslaved, Helheim, and spit out venomous new material that comes across as fresh. With lines like “my soul remembers the pain of those warriors that died fighting for their gods” there is no doubt what their stance is, and the overall slant of the lyrics is a rally for support rather than a lamentation of what once was. There is, of course, reference to sacred forests, and musically, while not really folk tinged, there is a medieval quality to many passages, some of which come across as joyous. These tranquil atmospheric passages play well as leads to harsher moments, always building towards something, none thrown in as a token interlude.

The album starts with “Through the fog,” a short moody atmospheric intro that sets the stage well. Vocals are deep and clearly growled, making following along on the lyric sheet mostly unnecessary. Occasional moaned and shrieked vocals and chanted backgrounds that may not even be words, just sounds, round out the vocal delivery. Synthesizers carry the other instruments but are actually mostly in the background. Vocal harmonies flow with the keys and the rhythm section keeps it simple and straightforward, which the rest of the music plays off of. All the songs have a hidden complexity. On the surface are uncomplicated riffs and underneath are layers of subtle melodies and chunkier riffs. The ritualistic feel is strengthened by the chanted backing vocals which make me think of ancient religious ceremonies where everyone gets lost in the chanted tones and drum beats to become one with god.

When Gregorian chant became commercially popular back in 1994 I thought black metal was suited to the same tradition,and so did Fenriz, especially pagan black. Berserk’s music is perfect to work one into a frenzy preparing for battle, but it also can mesmerize you much like listening to Muslims continually chant Allah until the word becomes meaningless and it is just an emotional response to the sounds. Add traditional black intensity to this and one powerful album is the result. Memorable songs: “Forest of souls in the wolf’s land” which proclaims “unity is the only way towards victory” of restoring ancient laws and customs. “Ravens fly -Black Horizons” is about liberation, stating “later generations will thank us.” Also memorable are “Forgotten kingdoms” and “The Great Celtiberia.”

There is even a literary connection, with special hails going to (among others) Crom (god of Robert E Howard’s Conan) and Drizzt (dark elf of R. A. Salvatore) This album was due out in 2001 on Chanteloup Creations but the French government closed them down before that happened. Luckily Oaken Shield jumped in. The music was written between April 99 and July 00, hopefully that means they were hard at work on the next album while waiting for this one to be released. Fittingly, the album ends with a scream of triumph.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Grimulfr
January 3rd, 2002


Leave a Reply

Privacy notice: When you submit a comment, your creditentials, message and IP address will be logged. A cookie will also be created on your browser with your chosen name and email, so that you do not need to type them again to post a new comment. All post and details will also go through an automatic spam check via Akismet's servers and need to be manually approved (so don't wonder about the delay). We purge our logs from your meta-data at frequent intervals.

  • Embryonic Autopsy - Origins of the Deformed
  • Sear Bliss - Heavenly Down
  • The Shiva Hypothesis - Faustian Restlessness EP
  • Kommandant - Exhibition of Conquest EP
  • Pentagram (Chile) - Eternal Life of Madness
  • Aklash - Reincarnation
  • Morgue - Close to Complete Darkness
  • Wormed - Omegon
  • Carrion Throne - The Feast of Human Vices EP
  • Kittie - Fire
  • Mad Hatter - Oneironautics
  • Serement - Abhorrent Invocations
  • Limbonic Art - Opus Daemoniacal
  • Bloodcross - Gravebound
  • Sentiment Dissolve - The Orwellian Dream