Concerning Old-Strife and Man-Banes

“Terrible way to die,” Óspakr said, expelling plumes of breath into the frigid night air. “Never seen no man swallow a snake before.”

Geirr grunted his affirmation, lost in thought. The guard was still scanning the horizon, watching for moonlit glints on armor, a reflection on a blade, listening for a barely suppressed cough. It was quiet out there. Nothing but a phalanx of soldier pines, silhouetted in the mist. Beyond that, the narrow stretch of icy sea.

“Raud the Strong should have accepted King Olaf’s new god,” Geirr finally said. “Any god that inspires that kind of devotion must not be as weak as some say.”

“This Christ must be a mighty fearsome lamb,” Óspakr offered.

Geirr ignored the comment. He didn’t know much about this new god. He just accepted him, took his baptism and fell in line. He was the king’s man. It kept his belly full, and his back clothed.

“One day, they’ll write songs about what went on here today,” Geirr mused. “Fierce songs of torture and battle and blood.”

“Aye. Likely one of the King’s poets is scribbling away as we speak.” Óspakr liked music.

“It’ll be wet goose shit,” Geirr spat. “These poets and singers sound too pretty.  Yowls and prancing are no way to capture the way a man screams when you force a red-hot drinking horn into his mouth and put a snake into his gullet. A gentle melody is no way to capture the blood that flows when you flay a man from chin to balls.”

Óspakr shivered. Geirr could be a dark one, and Óspakr could sense his frustration. The old guard – almost nine-and-thirty, he said once – was meant for battle, not the night’s watch, but an arrow to the knee had put an end to that.

“One day, in some great Stonehaven,” Geirr continued, “men will write great songs of old-strife and man-banes. Great, deadly sagas where the lutes don’t tinkle like piss dribbling down your leg. They’ll boom and echo, like glaciers calving into the sea. Or like trees splintering ‘neath bolts of lightning. In fact, they won’t sound like lutes at all. They’ll slice into your soul like the blackest of metal blades.” He closed his eyes, imagining the chaos. “Black metal,” he murmured. “Warrior metal.”

Óspakr tried to imagine what his companion was talking about. He sounded mad, but it would be a long night and the conversation kept him distracted from the chill. He was looking forward to some hot porridge in the morning, maybe a bit of boiled bacon too.

Geirr was lost in his demented reverie. “And great pounding wardrums, like the hard gallop of a thousand men across stony ground. The sound of a thousand spears pounding on a thousand shields, of a thousands ships’ prows crashing on thousands of rocky shores. That’s how you capture blood and battle.” Geirr’s pulse was racing. He wanted to hear this music now.

“Will there be singing?,” Óspakr asked.

“Aye. Powerful, monstrous singing, like a berserker’s roar,” Geirr went on. “The screech and caw of ravens perched upon battlefield dead. The distant howls of wolves in the hills. None of this pitiful mewling from some fool in shit-stained fur and motley. Singing that puts fire in your belly and stiffens your cock.” He wanted to bellow into the night. “No, not singing at all. Screaming.”

Now Óspakr was starting to become frightened. “I don’t think I much like the sound of that,” he ventured. “It doesn’t sound natural.”

“That snake is likely chewing through Raud’s guts right as we speak,” Geirr spat. “Not much natural about that, but these are the times we live in. And it’s only going to get worse.”

Óspakr tried not to muse on that.  “What will the songs be about?,” he squeaked.

“The ways to bend a man’s soul. The craft of torturers, the rule of law. Cutting the necks of upstarts. Addressing the scorn pole. Suffering the swine array and then facing the chill of the white fall and frozen walls. And then, after the last breaths have escaped, the coins we place under their corpses.”

Geirr was restless now. He missed the frenzy of battle, the adrenaline surge when attackers could come from any direction and the senses were heightened to take them all on in the blink of an eye. He missed the blood, and today’s gory spectacle had only stirred up that violent energy. A guard post was no place for the rest of his days. And Óspakr, with his sallow face and wispy faint mustache, was naught but a simpering boy.

Perhaps this new god, with his crown of thorns and weeping stare, wasn’t so meek after all. If it filled King Olaf with such passion and rage, perhaps He was worth praying to as well. Geirr unsheathed his dagger and buried it into Óspakr’s throat. The red gush, rendered black by the moonlight, instantly warmed his hands. Óspakr gargled, and Geirr clapped a gloved hand over his mouth as he drove the dagger in again. The ragged caw that escaped from that red, wet ruin sounded just like ravens perched upon battlefield dead.


[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
April 27th, 2012


  1. Commented by: vugelnox

    greatest. review. ever.

  2. Commented by: drowningincorn

    I’m with Vugel. I’ll be checking this out first thing when I get out of work. I’m dying to hear this.

  3. Commented by: peridot

    Thirded. I’ve gotta check this out.

  4. Commented by: denial

    10 years ago,a zine called the necrocult,I stopped reading it because this one guys reviews were like this one.pure trash that has nothing to do with the music. This review is plagarized from that zine without a doubt.go die

  5. Commented by: vugelnox

    oh shit Jordan, denial called you out big time son. He smoothed the bitchslap over by employing the grammar of an autistic monkey but man that still has got to sting!

  6. Commented by: gabaghoul

    sorry I have already died and cannot respond to the stinging barb.

    (though I do recognize that this was an unorthodox approach to a review, so if you want some more concrete info, here it is: this album is great. buy it if you like classic black metal.)

  7. Commented by: GW

    Review is ridiculous garbage. If you want to write short stories, write short stories. Better yet, write a novel. That ought to keep you busy doing that.

  8. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    this is great.

  9. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    holy shit, the pained howls of doom on Suffering the Swine Array are just so fucking cool.

  10. Commented by: Stiffy

    GW and Denial can piss off.

  11. Commented by: GW

    I will piss off.

  12. Commented by: Broaden City

    …you’ve done it again Gaba – just brilliant.

  13. Commented by: Jon

    Excellent release. These guys got some stuff happening.

  14. Commented by: The Troll

    Hell Yeee

  15. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Couldn’t resist the arrow to the knee bit, could you? :P

    I like reviews like this, they’re fun. Stop being so goddamn uptight, people.

  16. Commented by: Grimulfr

    I think that’s probably about how the discussion went. The rest of the story of course is what Raud did to warrant such a fate.

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