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  Metal Land » Black & Dark » Underground Black Scene » Countess

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Orlok's early musical career

Orlok (born in 1970) developed an interest in Heavy Metal at the age of twelve when he started to listen to bands like IRON MAIDEN, AC/DC, JUDAS PRIEST, KISS, SAXON and MOTORHEAD. He discovered Black Metal a few years later when a friend taped him SAXON's Power And The Glory and PRIEST's Defenders Of The Faith and filled up the space left on the 90-minute cassette with a couple of songs from MERCYFUL FATE's Don't Break The Oath album, songs that greatly impressed Orlok. He soon discovered bands like SODOM, VENOM, BATHORY and HELLHAMMER/CELTIC FROST and since he had nursed a profound interest in history, mythology and the occult since early childhood Orlok felt he had found what he had been looking for...

In 1988 Orlok moved to Leiden to become a history student at the university there and at the university he met a guy called Mark, who was playing guitar in a band called AGENT ORANGE and, like Orlok, was fed up with the then fashionable socially conscious 'techno thrash' would-be metal music and wanted to play primitive, raw, evil music. Orlok found out that he had a very extreme voice and they decided to found a band together called DEATH CAMP, a name Mark had thought up but they were unable to find permanent members for the band because at the time everybody felt Black Metal was 'stupid' and wanted to sing about toxic waste.

Disappointed, Mark gave up and sold his guitar a year later but Orlok decided to continue. After unsuccesful attempts to form a Black Metal band to be called FLESHLORD Orlok met Ealdhlaford Faust (born in 1969), at the university as well, who was also playing guitar and still living in the then practically forgotten age of spikes and inverted crosses and one night while they were getting drunk and were watching VENOM's Seven Dates Of Hell video together they got the idea to form a band to be called INFERNAL DESTINY. They soon found a drummer, a guy called Ed, and when they couldn't find a bass player Orlok decided to take up the bass. After rehearsing for a while the drummer left the band because he wanted to play death/grind and the band's name was changed to SATANIC REALM.
wo new members joined the band, Frodo (born in 1969) on drums and Othalaz (born in 1972) on guitar, while Ealdhlaford Faust took up the bass so Orlok could concentrate on singing. This line-up did not last long either though: Ealdhlaford Faust soon left due to musical differences. The remaining members, Orlok taking up the bass again, continued under a new name: FALLEN TEMPLE. This band existed for little over a year, from August '91 until September '92, during which time four (rehearsal-)demo's were released: Ragnarok, Hel's Realm, Ancient Fears and Shrines Of The Past, tapes containing extremely crude, raw Black/Doom Metal. The band also did five gigs, including a legendary concert at the Black Flame Festival in Elsloo with OCCULT and a few other bands.

FALLEN TEMPLE was becoming quite well-known in especially the Dutch and Flemish underground scenes and even recorded a 7" for Hammerheart Records which was never released because the band split up shortly afterwards. Orlok decided to quit because he felt the band's musical possibilities had reached their limits and the remaining members didn't bother to continue on their own.

After leaving FALLEN TEMPLE Orlok became involved with many other bands and projects. Singing and playing guitar he recorded an improvised demo (Eternal Lust) with his friend Guido 'Hammerheart' Heijnens on drums and vocals, under the moniker HORDES OF LUST, and he joined a band called FORGOTTEN in which he just sang. The rest of this band consisted of H. Bakker (born in 1969) on guitars, Ealdhlaford Faust on bass and the aforementioned guy named Ed on drums. This line-up, which mainly played covers of bands like VENOM and CELTIC FROST, lasted only a few months before it fell apart in December '92 because the members' respective musical interests were simply too different. H. Bakker continued on his own under the moniker ARCANA and moved into a completely different musical field.

Orlok then tried to form a band to be called HELFROST but he could not find members so he teamed up with Hammerheart again to continue with HORDES OF LUST, which had initially been intended as a one-off project. They shortened the name to HORDES and two new members joined: Ealdhlaford Faust on bass and Alex on keyboards. In February '93 this line-up recorded the Songs To Hall Up High demo, containing primitive Black/Doom Metal reminiscent of HELLHAMMER and early SAMAEL with weird synth parts woven through. This demo was recorded live at the band's rehearsal place by the light of nothing but a few black candles and the tape received a great response from the international underground scene but HORDES fell apart nevertheless shortly afterwards because the members lived far apart and all found other things to do. Hammerheart created BIFROST, Alex moved to San Diego and in April '93 Orlok created a solo-project called 13 CANDLES and recorded a demo entitled Pilgrimage To The Gate Of Sin, containing primitive,crude Black Metal.
n August '93 the remaining members of HORDES, Orlok and Ealdhlaford Faust, were joined by a new lead guitarist, Axelord, as well as a new drummer, Thunder. The band's name was changed to MANITOU and this line-up started rehearsing intensively for a month before recording the Nothing This Evil Will Ever Die demo, containing quite original metal. After MANITOU's first gig, at 'LVP' in Leiden, the drummer left and the band more or less fell apart. In November '93 HORDES was revived as a one-off project with Orlok on vocals and drums, Othalaz on guitars and Ealdhlaford Faust on bass. This line-up recorded a new version of the song Longing For The Kingdom Of Steel from the demo, a thirteen-minute song in two parts with an incredibly extreme and filthy production, that would finally be released by Thurisaz Productions in September '94.

Countess: the MkI and MkII line-ups

COUNTESS had already been created by that time, in fact the band was formed early in 1992 by two BATHORY maniacs, Znon and Vercingetorix. In June '92 this MkI line-up had released the notorious Permafrost demo, Znon playing almost all the instruments by himself with Vercingetorix just doing some keyboards and backing vocals. According to the duo the demo contained "cold, dark Black Metal in the archac tradition" but according to most other people who heard it merely contained a lot of noise. In spite of the duo's obvious lack of musical ability Orlok liked the demo because of its incredibly pure Black Metal atmosphere, something Orlok had been trying to achieve with previous bands as well.

Orlok got in touch with COUNTESS and though he was singing in FORGOTTEN at the time he joined COUNTESS after a while, thus creating the MkII line-up. Originally he was to play only bass in COUNTESS but later he took over the vocals as well so Znon could concentrate on his guitar, having already handed over the drums to Vercingetorix. In December '92 this unholy trinity recorded the album The Gospel Of The Horned One (although initially the idea had been to call the album The Whispering Winds Of Evil) at Winter Solstice. The album displayed a vast musical progression compared to the demo but still contained that unique purity in style and that incredibly authentic, cold and dark, medival Black Metal atmosphere that had already characterized the demo. In spite of the musical progression compared to the demo the album's playing and production were still poor at best which was not strange since it was recorded in a single day in a barn using terrible equipment and the band had not rehearsed a single song - in fact the recording of the album was the only time the MkII line-up ever played together! Obviously, there was a complete lack of interest from labels to release The Gospel Of The Horned One and not much happened with COUNTESS after the recording of the album. Rehearsing was something they had never done anyway and Vercingetorix spent most of his time travelling through Europe, Znon got fed up with answering mail and cancelled his PO Box and Orlok got busy with other bands and projects.

The MkIII line-up

In the summer of 1993, following the demise of HORDES, Orlok was without a band again and got the idea to found a label to release the COUNTESS album because he felt it was a great and above all unique album and it would be a shame if it would never be put out. So Orlok founded Thurisaz Productions and after Znon had remixed the recordings The Gospel Of The Horned One was released on CD in August '93, limited to 1109 individually numbered copies.

Initially Orlok did not pay that much attention to promoting the COUNTESS CD since he was busy with MANITOU at the time but after MANITOU's line-up fell apart he considered the possibility of continuing with COUNTESS. Znon and Vercingetorix were not interested though, for mostly personal reasons, but did not mind Orlok continuing the band they had created so Orlok started looking for new members to replace them.

In September '93 the MkIII line-up got together through an ad in the public library in Rotterdam, with Othalaz and Imogem (born in 1972) on guitars and Sablast (born in 1977) on drums. Othalaz had already played with Orlok in FALLEN TEMPLE and Imogem and Sablast had been playing together in a band called ABSTRUSUS until then.

The MkIII line-up started rehearsing intensively and in December '93 the first ever COUNTESS gig took place in Volkel at the Black Christmas festival, shortly after the first ever COUNTESS T-shirts had been printed. In January '94 a new demo was recorded, The Wolves Awake, of which the first 100 copies were individually numbered and contained a bonus track: a newly recorded version of Full Moon Baptism from the CD. Playing and production were better than on the CD, though still somewhat lacking, and the demo received a good response from the international underground scene. Orlok felt that, in spite of the musical progression, the demo somehow lacked the right feeling, possibly because of the new members' lack of roots in the Black Metal tradition.

In March '94 COUNTESS recorded a new version of the old FALLEN TEMPLE classic Deisidaimonia for Thurisaz Production's compilation tape Hymns Of Winter but the aforementioned musical differences surfaced after a while though and after two more gigs and the release of the official live tape Doomed To Live in the summer of 1994 the MkIII line-up fell apart.

Imogem and Sablast went on to play in MANITOU but were expelled from that band not long after and currently Imogem, like Znon and Vercingetorix, is doing nothing at all in music anymore, whilst Sablast is now playing in a rock band called ALICE D.

The emergence of N.E.P. and the MkIV line-up

At the time of Thurisaz Productions' release of the aforementioned HORDES 7" COUNTESS was signed by Nazgul's Eyrie Productions, a German label that had been following the band with more than normal interest since the release of The Gospel Of The Horned One. The label's boss, Opyros, had come to Holland in May '94 to meet Orlok and videotape what would turn out to be the final gig of the MkIII line-up (in fact the selection of songs from that gig released on the Doomed To Live was taken from this video). Orlok and Opyros immediately got along well, sharing the same archac musical background and when Orlok told Opyros he was fed up with running Thurisaz Productions and was looking for another label for COUNTESS Opyros immediately offered him a deal.

Orlok decided to record a new album for N.E.P. right away, fittingly entitled The Return Of The Horned One, containing new versions of the best tracks from The Wolves Awake, a new version of Deisidaimonia and new songs. In a way it was still an album of the MkIII line-up since three songs were (co-) written by Othalaz and both he and Imogem played some rhythm as well as lead guitar parts on the album.

The Return Of The Horned One was released on CD by N.E.P. in December '94 and received a good response from the international underground, combining the strong points of The Gospel... (raw and primitive, great atmosphere) and The Wolves Awake (more variation, better playing, production and songwriting). Songs like the bombastic Fire & Blood, Ritual Of The 7 Priests and especially the stunning, Dutch-language Bloed In De Sneeuw (generally acknowledged as the first-ever Black Metal song with lyrics in Dutch) are definite classics.
o shoot some pictures for the CD's booklet Orlok and Opyros undertook a pilgrimage to one of the castles where Erzsbet N dasdy a.k.a. Elisabeth Bathory once enjoyed her bloody amusement. After the break-up of the MkIII line-up and the recording of The Return... in September '94 Orlok, now graduated from Leiden university with a master's degree in (medival) history, didn't feel like looking for new members for COUNTESS but decided to concentrate on writing new material instead and when The Return... was released in December '94 all the songs for the next album had already been written so in January '95 Orlok recorded the third COUNTESS album - the second one for N.E.P. - Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam, under the watchful eyes of Opyros and Demonos Sova, chief berserk of BARATHRUM, who both did some backing vocals on the intro.

Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam was the first ever COUNTESS release recorded in a real studio and a professional, digital 16-track studio at that. Consequently this album displays a vast progression compared to all earlier releases productionwise but without losing any of the purity in style and old-fashioned dark atmosphere that have always characterized the music of COUNTESS.

Of course, N.E.P. did not release Ad Maiorem... immediately because The Return had just been put out but the song The Wrath Of Satan's Whore was taken from the album to be the titletrack of a cassette EP that was released in March '95 and contained four more new tracks not featured on the album.

By the time this cassette EP was released Orlok had started to search for new members again since N.E.P. had plans to send COUNTESS on tour. An ad in the Dutch Aardschok magazine led to a massive response from interested musicians and after talking to many of them the MkIV line-up was born when Orlok decided to try it with Zagan (born in 1977) on guitars and Warhead (born in 1977) on drums, who had been playing together in a band called ASTAROTH until then.

After two months of rehearsing the MkIV line-up did a short German tour in late May '95, for which special tour T-shirts were printed, co-headlining with Italian legend MORTUARY DRAPE and supported by German bands MAYHEMIC TRUTH and DROWNED. After this succesful tour COUNTESS recorded two tracks (a new version of The Priest Must Die and a new song, De Gift Der Goden) for a promo tape with additional livetracks (taken from a video shot by Opyros during the German tour). This promo tape was used for promotion only and never released.

Then the MkIV line-up started to write new material musical differences surfaced between Orlok and the new members, who were very able musicians but also very young and inexperienced. In the summer of 1995 Zagan and Warhead left COUNTESS to join MANITOU and therefore Orlok was once again the only member of the band when in October '95 Ad Maiorem... was released on CD. The album immediately gained a very positive response, offering great songs like the fast and aggressive The Priest Must Die (the band's live opener at almost every gig since March '95), the instant classic The Wrath Of Satan's Whore (inspired by the aforementioned pilgrimage Orlok and Opyros undertook to Elisabeth Bathory's castle and a popular live song as well), the very heavy mid-paced Thus Spoke The Master and the SAINT VITUS cover Born Too Late.

Then Ad Maiorem... was released Orlok was already working on songs for the next COUNTESS album and in December '95 Opyros came to Holland again to witness the recording of The Book Of The Heretic, an album full of songs combining the strong points of the three previous albums (purity in style and majestically dark atmosphere of The Gospel...; originality and thundering bass sound of The Return...; professional production and devastating guitar sound of Ad Maiorem...) and adding a progression in songwriting, even greater variety than before and a slightly symphonic edge without losing touch with the raw, primitive basic style that has always set COUNTESS apart from the brainless masses. Sadly the album was hampered by a rather poor mix - it could have been much better with a stronger mix. The Book Of The Heretic was also a concept album, based on a dark fantasy tale written by Orlok that was completely included in the CD's booklet when the album was released in June '96.

The MkV line-up and the return of the MkIV line-up

Between the recording and the release of The Book... COUNTESS had also become a real band again. In February '97 Zagan and Warhead, grown older and wiser since leaving COUNTESS, returned. They had left MANITOU again in the meantime and started their own project ELOHIM but gave that up when they returned to COUNTESS. Another former member, Othalaz, who had been doing nothing in music since the break-up of the MkIII line-up, returned as well because the band felt a second guitar player would help create a better live sound and thus the MkV line-up was born. Because of these developments De Gift Der Goden, a song the music of which was written by Zagan and recorded for the aformentioned promo tape in 1995, was remixed and added to The Book Of The Heretic as a bonus track.
his 'new' line-up started rehearsing and in late April '96 two more gigs were done in Germany (at one of these, in Berlin, Orlok was interviewed by a local TV station, that also filmed part of the gig, but this footage was never aired because it was accidentally destroyed...) and in June '96, coinciding with the release of The Book..., COUNTESS played at the Black Metal Inferno festival in Rotterdam that was headlined by ANCIENT RITES.

Later in 1996 the MkV line-up got the idea to record a live album, mainly because the members of the band felt COUNTESS had always been much stronger live than on recordings. Another reason was that many people had been asking the band for new versions of old songs that are great songs but lack in playing and production in the original studio versions, but the band never felt like re-recording old songs for new studio albums because no matter how much better a new version is it can never replace the original and of course a live album was the perfect solution to this 'problem'.

Opyros liked the idea of a COUNTESS live album and in November '96 a COUNTESS gig in Schiedam was recorded digitally on 16 tracks. These recordings, that were mixed a few days after the gig, included the best songs from the first four studio albums and a couple of new tunes as well.

Shortly after the recording of this live album the band suffered some line-up problems again that gave rise to rumours in the international underground that COUNTESS had split up but this was not the case though Othalaz did leave the band in early 1997 because he simply could not spare the time to play in COUNTESS anymore and therefore the band reverted to the MkIV line-up, a three-piece outfit once more.

The members of the MkIV line-up then decided time had come to take matters in their own hands as much as possible so they founded Prowler Productions for future COUNTESS releases. The live CD, which was to be called Into Battle and had of course been recorded for N.E.P., was licensed to Prowler Productions and to be released in September '97 but the release of this album was cancelled because the members of COUNTESS felt that the mix was not good enough and the recordings in general were not representative anymore of what COUNTESS was like live. One song from the live CD was released though, in June '97 on the first COUNTESS release on Prowler Productions, a mini CD entitled Hell's Rock & Roll which featured three new songs as well. This release was by far the best COUNTESS had ever recorded and the members of the band felt this mini CD was finally a record more or less representative of what COUNTESS is all about. The new tracks displayed even greater variety than before as well as stronger songwriting and the playing and production were better than ever too.

In late April and early May '97 did a short Dutch/German tour, together with the gods of Jet Black Metal BARATHRUM and Japanse legend SABBAT, to coincide with the release of Hell's Rock & Roll, but due to an amazing amount of fuck-ups by the person responsible for the pressing of the mini CD the release was delayed until June '97, well after the tour. Nevertheless these gigs were very succesful and were considered by the members themselves to be the band's finest to date.

Then the mini CD Hell's Rock & Roll was finally released the response from the fans was great but reactions from the press and from distributors were, inexplicably, worse than ever before. This obviously frustrated the members of COUNTESS and, together with the fact they were completely fed up with today's pathetic scene, the fact almost no new material was written and the lack of opportunities to play live regularly, caused a lot of tension between the band members. Ultimately this led to a unanimous decision to quit both the band and Prowler Productions in November '97, which meant that a Finnish tour scheduled for December '97 with BARATHRUM, WIZARD and BABYLON WHORES had to be cancelled, sadly.

For about a year COUNTESS was no more until in late 1998 Orlok suddenly felt the urge to write and record new music again and when he told Opyros about this the latter immediately offered him a deal with his new label Barbarian Wrath. Orlok then started recording new material, working on a simple 4-track machine like in the old days and when he told Zagan about what he was doing and asked him whether he would like to participate Zagan immediately reacted positively and together they finished two albums before the year was over. These albums are to be released by Barbarian Wrath in the year 1999 (exact release dates are yet unknown) and will be entitled The Revenge Of The Horned One - Part I and The Revenge Of The Horned One - Part II. Both albums run close to 70 minutes in length and have a raw, filthy sound while the music comprises elements from all previous COUNTESS releases, making these albums perhaps the most complete COUNTESS releases to date. Cover art for these albums will be provided by Demonos Sova.

In January '99 Warhead joined Orlok and Zagan once more and thus the MkIV line-up - by now absolutely the definitive COUNTESS line-up - started rehearsing again. It soon became clear that the year's break had done all of the band members a lot of good, but it remains to be seen what the future holds for COUNTESS...

( )

Orlok -

1992 - Permafrost
1993 - The Gospel of the Horned One
1994 - The Wolves Awake
1994 - The Return of the Horned One
1995 - The Wrath of Satan's Whore
1995 - Promo'95
1995 - Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam
1996 - The Book of the Heretic
1997 - Hell's Rock and Roll
2000 - The Shining Swords of Hate
2001 - The Revenge of the Horned One Part I
2002 - The Revenge of the Horned One Part II
2003 - Split with Megiddo
2004 - Heilig Vuur
2005 - Spawn of Steel

: http://www.barbarianwrath.org/Countess/

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Beyond the Event Horizon, beyond the lights of the stars, a place of eternal freedom, the void where all illusions die.
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: Underground Black Scene, : Countess

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