By Jonathan Smith
One of many releases last year to fall through the cracks, Blood on Snow is the first major release by British black metallers Eastern Front. The group’s subject matter of choice is hardly new territory for metal bands. However, Eastern Front‘s claim to distinction stems from the fact that, in their case, WWII isn’t being used as one attention grabbing device among many. With Blood on Snow, Eastern Front join other bands who announce their intentions of getting people to talk about the history that informs their music. Perhaps their educational aspirations are why in almost any write up about them they are so concerned to disassociate themselves from any particular politics.
While it’s not clear how educational their first full-length record might be, musically it’s entertaining enough. Blood on Snow is mostly black metal with some death metal influences thrown in, just enough to distinguish themselves from the pack of BM artists that are circulating right now. High-pitched shrieks are blended with throaty growls, and the whole album more or less lumbers along at a steady pace. A refreshing change is that the opening instrumental is not a track in and of itself — “Stalinorgel” opens with the rhythmic grinding of industrial machinery (probably of a war-making variety) before rushing into the first of the album’s many tremolo-centric riffs. The music often sticks in one’s head, however, as demonstrated by the rhythm sections found in “Unleash The Panzer Division” and “At The Gates of Moscow.” One of the strongest cuts found here is “Blood on Snow,” a title track that definitely seems designed to function as a song upon which to sell the album.
Overall, there’s nothing terribly original here. That said, it’s still enjoyable material that is rewarding even after repeated listens. It does seem odd that Eastern Front would thematically limit itself in such a way; it remains to be seen whether they can repeatedly mine their subject matter before it risks becoming even more clichéd than the subject matter already is. Then again, they would hardly be the first metal band to stick to such a particular choice of topic, and if Blood on Snow is an indication of their potential musical chops, then a sophomore album is welcome.