Transilvania – Of Sleep and Death Review

Welcome to 2021! While it remains to be seen if 2020 was the year to end all years or the calm before the storm, we nevertheless made it. You made it. I would love to expound all wisdom and reminiscing about the waves upon waves of shenanigans crashed upon us yesteryear, but I have a word count to think about. What better way than to open the new year with some black metal? I’ve found that telling people my favorite classic Darkthrone album usually ends up pissing off the trver than trve, but Austria’s Transilvania1 has made it clear which one they prefer — and they’re hungry. Does this vampire-lovin’ black/thrash/everything-and-the-kitchen-sink satisfy your vampyric blvvdlvst or wyll yt leave yov starvyng?2

Transilvania is a black/thrash metal quartet from Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria, having released a full-length, a split, and an EP since its 2014 or 2010 inception. The project was officially founded in 2010 as Epidermis, changing its name to Old Skull and then to Transilvania in 2014. Members are also part of the death metal collective Chaostemple. “Too much information, DH! What are you thinking?” you may exclaim. I’m glad you asked. The chaos is distilled into the clusterfuck that is sophomore effort Of Sleep and Death, channeling thrashy black metal with folky melodies, choral flavors, touches of Dissection-esque melodic black, and a Mütiilation love for vampires atop a stereotypical second-wave execution of tremolo riffs, blast beats, and shrieks. It’s an album rife with overload and mediocrity ultimately damned by its indecision.

That’s not to say that Of Sleep and Death doesn’t have its moments. Transilvania‘s best resides in the patient melodic plucking punctuated by tasteful riffs and folky flavors, making passages in tracks like “Hekateion,” the title track, and “Lycanthropic Chant” truly pleasing. “Vault of Evening” and the back-half of “Mortpetten” do well with the thrash influence, channeling the album’s overall chaos into Skeletonwitch-esque shred, complete with pummeling riffs and wild solos, their punchiness enhanced by contemplative plucking. The production is pleasing overall, as guitar carries a certain weight while maintaining rawness, allowing textures and dueling riffs. The percussion is just loud enough (although the snare feels dreadfully hollow),  the bass makes lovely appearances periodically (the solo in “Underneath Dying Stars” is pretty dope), and the vocals are aptly vicious. This allows Of Sleep and Death to be at least listenable even at its worst.

Unfortunately for Transilvania, in spite of moments, the vast majority of its fifty minute runtime hangs out in the ballpark of “passable” or “painful.” Second-wave moments of tremolo and blast beats are simply stereotypical at best, feeling like Immortal or Katharsis B-sides in raw-ish riffs and booming blast beats.  “Hekateion” is the most guilty of the blackened pain, as its central riff features jarringly off-key plucking that has difficulty justifying its better second half. Opener “Opus Morbi,” an antithesis to “Vault of Evening,” channels chaos in all the wrong ways, featuring a choral intro that has no relevance to the rest of the album, while the meat consists of abruptly short passages punctuated by awkward transitions. Tracks like “Heart Harvest” and “Mortpetten” follow suit, relying on riffs that are either too mundane or uninteresting, or both. Perhaps most damning, because of its general golf score of “par to subpar,” it’s difficult to imagine these Austrians playing in the big leagues with other, frankly better, black/thrash acts like Skeletonwitch, Frosthelm, or Serpent Column. Even influences in Mütiilation are shoddy at best, leaving Of Sleep and Death in woeful limbo.

If anything, Transilvania has potential, even if it is disastrously hindered by indecision. While a decision to include thrash, folk, and melodic black into a raw-ish “vampyric” second-wave palette is a difficult one to execute even from the genre’s best, these Austrians shoot themselves in the foot with foolhardy songwriting. Of Sleep and Death is a chaotic splatter of black metal, worsened by its distinct lack of identity. Like a black metal carpet bomb, yes, it sometimes hits its target (“Vault of Evening”), but more often than not we’re left with a lot of collateral damage: fifty minutes you won’t get back. Bad blood indeed from these vampires, but hopefully not an indication of what 2021 holds.


Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 12 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Invictus Productions
Websites: transilvania.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/transilvaniaaustria
Releases Worldwide: January 1st, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Which is not Austrian at all. Posers.
  2. V nice, as the kids might say. – Holdeneye
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