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Often considered a black page in Vader’s early discography “Black To the Blind” not only is marred by a thin, substandard production – but it is also tucked within two veritable classics with “De Profundis” and “Litany”, respectively. On top of that one track was omitted in post-production leaving the band with a flawed product to push. Clocking under 28 minutes “Black To the Blind”, the third Vader album, is short even by their own standards. While the cards were stacked against the album from a technical standpoint Vader can always be relied upon, and “Black To the Blind” is no different in that respect.

One of the first things to stand out is that “Black To the Blind” isn’t as blindingly fast as its illustrious predecessor. Opener ‘Heading For Internal Darkness’ works wonderfully thanks to the decreased velocity, although when it puts the pedal to the metal Vader is in fine form as they always are. The album is custodian to live staple ‘Carnal’ and while it is the first album to feature long-time guitarist Maurycy ’Mauser’ Stefanowicz there isn’t much of a difference from the albums that preceded or followed it. Notable is that the production robs the thick bass guitar of much of its power, whereas the drum kit sounds far more natural and organic, the sparkling leads/solos also shine wonderfully thanks to that very same bare bones and rather dry production. A dry production can either stifle a band in the worst manner (see: Metallica’s “…And Justice For All”) or make them sound that much massive (see: Gorefest’s “Erase”). Vader falls into the latter category with this release as it amplifies the writing strengths of its creative core duo while shedding all other unnecessary baggage for something altogether more poignant and direct.

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpg“Black To the Blind” is more about controlled aggression than anything. This can be heard by the awe-inspiring performance of Krzysztof ‘Doc’ Raczkowski, who proves here why he was one of the most revered drummers of 90s death metal. This can clearly be heard in the earlier mentioned ‘Carnal’ which, despite being little over two minutes, manages to combine his different styles and techniques into a manageable format. Doc had his personal problems (mostly alcohol/substance abuse), but in the studio he was a pro. His limb control is amazing with excellent fills, thrash beats, cymbal crashes and exciting footwork. The interplay between Wiwczarek’s leads/solos and Doc’s drumming is the beating heart of this band’s repertoire, and “Black To the Blind” is no different. Compared to the preceding albums the tempo is a bit lower than you’d expect, and there are a few clean sung sections here and there. It is a minor stylistic deviation that is notable, but hardly one that is problematic as the songwriting remains intact despite the small cosmetic changes. Vader is still Vader here, a bit slower maybe, but still the same.

That Vader perfected its craft was already amply proven with “De Profundis”. This third album takes that line of thought to its logical conclusion, and most of the songs (less than half) don’t reach the three minutes mark. The ones that do typically aren’t the characteristic Vader songs, with exception of ‘The Red Passage’ that starts out with a sound effect and a bass guitar intro before heading into known territory. Even with the addition of several new elements to its sound it is hardly like Vader is selling out. Its sound is identical to that of the preceding records, and the decreased velocity allows several nuances in the riffing to shine through more clearly. It can be argued that Wiwczarek is better off not doing the cleaner passages, which would be true, but they would practically disappear after this album’s release. As expected for a band dealing with abstract occult and thelemic subjects, liner notes were provided detailing the meaning behind each of the songs on the record. In a sense “Black To the Blind” is a transitional album in between Vader two distinct early eras: the speedy, violent thrash-fused death metal that they were up to this point, and the more groovy, less technical and more accessible death metal act they would turn into with “Litany” and its celebrated/vilified successor “Revelations”. “Black To the Blind” marks the end of an era.

The album was cut at Selani Studio in the band’s hometown of Olsztyn with producer Andrzej Bomba. As per usual it was the duo of Piotr ‘Peter’ Wiwczarek and Krzysztof ‘Doc’ Raczkowski (drums) who laid down all instruments in the studio. Once again Piotr ‘Peter’ Wiwczarek shared production duties, so it is unclear who exactly to blame for the rather dry but strangely effective production. The often-maligned production works wonderfully well with Vader’s take-no-prisons death metal. All instruments can be heard, and the whole is crunchy albeit lacking in beefy bass tones, mid range and overall bottom end heaviness. This shortcoming would be taken care of on the follow-up to this record, which in turn led to complaints on the other end of the spectrum. “Black To the Blind” was the first to feature artwork by Polish digital artist Jacek Wiśniewski, who would become a household name in the scene thanks to his association with Vader. In all “Black To the Blind” is an excellent addition to the Vader catalogue, even though it is often regretfully forgotten for the more known (or popular) entries in the band’s canon.

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After releasing one of the best selling demos in the genre, and releasing an excellent debut on Earache Records, Poland’s Vader had to prove their initial success wasn’t a fluke. In the intervening three years they released a live album and an EP while they prepared their second album, the first to feature all new and original material. On its second album things fell in place for Polish death metal combo Vader as they honed their sound into perfection. “De Profundis” is the template of which all future albums would be based, and a yardstick against which Polish death metal at large is often measured.

One of the first things to notice in the three years since the debut is how tight-knit and together the band has become. This second album largely does away with the thrash metal architecture of “The Ultimate Incantation” and places a great prominence on the Morbid Angel influence that already loomed over its debut. What remains intact from the debut is the heavily Slayer influenced riffing and the dynamic range that is now integrated into a faster, leaner and overall more percussive framework. While the album easily matches Suffocation’s “Pierced From Within” in terms of intensity and propulsion Vader is more direct and compact in comparison to that lauded band’s assault. Vader’s material is hardly what you’d call simple or straightforward by any reasonable measure, but they refuse to play technical or complex just for the sake of being so. In a sense they is the European counterpart to the enduring US death metal band Cannibal Corpse. Vader is about emotion, and no record displays this more brilliantly than “De Profundis”.

Vibrant and lively, even with the significantly bass-heavier but still bare bones production the songwriting of Wiwczarek and Raczkowski reached a peak. Presented here is a style of utterly relentless death metal clearly rooted in European thrash metal but with an American sense of urgency. Once again the album was promoted with a promotional video, and for this album ‘Incarnation’ was chosen. A wise choice if you consider that this track brings together everything this album is known for in a radio friendly three minute cut. As always with Vader the leads/solos and drumming are central to each of the cuts. Wiwczarek and Raczkowski shine on each of their respective instruments, especially Wiwczarek who besides doing vocals handled rhythm guitar, leads/solos and bass guitar duties. He is the embodiment of a hands-on approach. Where at this time a lot of death metal frontmen were moving towards a deeper, more guttural vocal style, Wiwczarek retains his throatier and more human approach while intensifying his overall delivery. All aspects have been improved in comparison to the debut that was released three years prior. Vader was about to go places in a few years.

All of the lyrics were written by Pawel Wasilewski, except ‘Silent Empire’ was written by Pawel Frelik while ‘Blood Of Kingu’, ‘Revolt’ and ‘Reborn In Flames’ were all written by Wiwczarek. ‘Reborn In Flames’ is in fact a re-recorded track from the 1989 “Necrolust” demo tape and the one but last of that era to appear on an official studio outing. All the music was written by Wiwczarek. Vader is one of the few to have most of its lyrics written by people not involved with the band or its associates. The practice is continued here but remains in place to this very day. As a result a lot of the early releases of this band are steeped in occult, thelemic and esoteric subject matter before it was popularized by that other famous Polish death metal band Behemoth, and to a lesser degree by the significantly more underground unit Lost Soul. Liner notes detail the meaning for each of the cuts presents on the release. For the first time the band is credited in producing itself, although that in truth means Piotr ‘Peter’ Wiwczarek. He would handle all production duties (along with the engineer) from this point onward.

“De Profundis” marks the first appearance of long-time bass guitarist Leszek ‘Shambo’ Rakowski and a returning Jaroslaw ‘China’ Labieniec. Although both being credited for partaking in the recordings it was the duo of Piotr ‘Peter’ Wiwczarek and Krzysztof ‘Doc’ Raczkowski (drums) who laid down all instruments in the studio. Wes Benscoter was chosen to provide the fantastic artwork for the album, and the band recorded at Studio Modern Sound in Gdynia, Poland. The album was released originally through Croon Records, but saw several reissues over the years by Pavement Music, Avalon/Marquee, Conquest Music, System Shock and Metal Mind Productions, all of which often added the ‘I Feel You’ cover from Depeche Mode or an assortment of other bonus content. The album sold approximately 17,000 units in two weeks in Poland during its release, and to this day it remains one of best and most loved death metal albums by a wide margin.