Flame formed back in 1998, and throughout much of that early time has stayed pretty deep in the shadows of the Finnish underground scene. The group recorded a few demos over the years, as well as two split recordings, before finally putting out their debut full-length through Iron Pegasus Records in 2005. Six years later, Flame returns with their follow-up release, March Into Firelands through Primitive Reaction Records early 2011, with the album being picked up for North American sale through Hell’s Headbangers. But, is it worth importing for a domestic release in the first place?
March Into Firefields is a decent mixture of Thrash and Black Metal. The music has a raw production quality, which should be expected, keeping the old-school evil Thrash vibe alive with heavily echoed vocals and a far from digital, more analog raw quality to the music with the vocals dominating over the music that feels like it’s more in the background then anything. Aside the heavy and fast riffs and pounding drums, there’s a strong Black Metal presence in the chords, carrying the staple concepts of the style, but also tread into a more modern day approach of blast beat utilization on many songs with the heavily echoed distortion on traditional rhaspy vocals, though some songs, like “Burning Horror” find a brief pull into a more gutteral direction, along with a heavier echo effect used. All of this creates a very sinister and dark atmosphere to the recording that perfectly reflects the Hellish artwork on the album, which is very rare in this day and age of metal, though not necessarily anything that would hurt or help the album.
Each track on here typically feels violent and evil, and there’s simply no holds barred with it either outside the occassional slower introduction. Right from the start you have “Black Realm of Satanas”, a fiery track of pounding Black Metal that later shows the band’s ability to lace their style with Thrash Metal in a more solidified manner, but the power introduction that is driven by the pounding march-like snares from the drum kit is enough to really incite any listener to continue listening and enter the coming war. One of the elements of March Into Firelands that really stands out in this nightmarish music is that sometimes it genuinely feels like the music is screaming at you thanks to the raw quality and distortions, which really comes to light shortly after the half way point of “Burning Horror”. On top of that, the track “Fireland” ends with a traditional Thrash closer, trying to ring out in an epic manner, but a layer of fire sound effects are placed before the closing guitars and drums, taking over when the music is done, feeling as if you have been sentenced to burn in the firelands.
Aside the aforementioned “Black Realm of Satanas” and “Burning Horror”, there really isn’t anything on this release that hurts it as far as the music goes. All eight songs offer up a great amount of variety, though the only thing lacking are some slower moments to break up the monotony of the somewhat similar songs. While each track has enough unique elements to them, the vocals begin to sound the same as far as the performances go, and the music typically feels like the same kind of blistering Black Metal that is just shy of being repetitive blast beats with some altered fast paced guitars. The fury and anger supporting these tracks, as well as the atmosphere with the recording, really causes the release to stand out nicely despite all this, but there’s no denying that “Rites of Endless Hatred” really stands out on the recording after so many faster tracks, and becomes a welcome breath of fresh air amidst the ash strewn into the air by the songs that lay before it. “Destructive Saint” also makes for another slower track, though faster then “Rites of Endless Hatred”, leaving behind the similar semi-blast beats for the more booming, march snre pounding of the drum kit that started the album off on “Black Realm of Satanas”. But, of all the faster paced tracks, “Flaming Magic Assault” really stands out as being the perfect mixture of Thrash and Black Metal. The riffs used are addicting and soaked with atittude-riddled riffs with an enchanting yet heavy drum performance, having a much stronger presence throughout the song, though the drumming does wind up sounding similar to the rest of the material on the album, and being the only slight downfall to the main verses, bringing in a clear inspiration of early Venom.
Flame really bring a good amount of energy to this recording, but March Into Firefields isn’t the most jaw dropping experience out there. The music here really captures the vibe of their name, as well as the artwork, carrying with it an intimidating and often brutalizing atmosphere to it that many bands can’t quite capture. But, the music often becomes a little repetitive with the vocal performance, and many of the main Black Metal drums that sound like the same snares being hit in the same pattern and speed over and over. In the long run, however, it’s still a solid effort that has a good amount of replay value, especially to fans of the more raw, underground Black Metal sound, making it an effort that is definitely worth checking out, if not being a purchase at some point down the road.