Sunday, February 5, 2017

Castrum - Black Silhouette Enfolded in Sunrise promo '97

Where do I start? Do I tell the whole story about me and Castrum chronologically or...? I think that's what I'll do.

There used to be a store in Zagreb, called Kovač. I was maybe 13 years old, I had a doctor here in Zagreb even though I didn't live here back then (I do now), so I went to Zagreb only occasionally, maybe once a month. Zagreb is pretty far from my home city, probably ~500km. Anyway, back then, which was probably in 2004 or sometime then up to the next couple of years, every time I'd go to Zagreb I'd bring money I had saved and spend it in record shops.

Anyway, this Kovač store was nothing but a simple camping trailer located between couple of streets, in backyard of some buildings in center of Zagreb, it pretty much looked like this and back then, they had awesome stuff inside, from CDs and tapes and vinyls, to boots, gothic jewlery, leather jackets, flags, posters, and 'zines. It was awesome! I'm pretty sure Kovač still exists, but last time I went there, it was crap - not much music, mostly just art and gothic clothes and boring shit.

So, once I went to Zagreb maybe 12 or more years ago, and I bought this Croatian Various Artists compilation CD that looked interesting to me, and on my way back home to Labin I listened to it on my discman and track #5 was Castrum - A Symphony in Moonlight and Nightmares Opus II. I don't think I can even remember or describe how crazy in love I was with it... I remember hearing that short song while travelling back home in car with my dad, looking at booklet, there's a page that has info about Castrum and even a nice picture:
I just stared, put the song on repeat, listened million times over and over and I remember thinking "wow, these guys did this, in my coutry back then! In Rijeka!". Rijeka is located somewhere between my home city Labin and Zagreb, maybe 60km away from Labin, near to the sea. I've been to Rijeka so many times, it's practically home. And this thought just blew my mind, they recorded this, made this music right here! I will never forget driving through Rijeka while listening to the same song on repeat over and over! I was insanely impressed! I loved it, I was so... happy!

Anyway, as I got home, after a few days I think I contacted my music seller. Yep, back then I had a guy from Croatian United Forces 'zine who had music, and every now and then I'd call him on phone, tell him what I want to order and I've been buying albums as mp3 on DVDs from him for a while, so this time I called him and asked him if he can maybe get more Castrum for me. And he did, I bought an original full length CD and a CD promo version of this album. And I've been listening to Castrum ever since.
I don't have those CDs anymore unfortunately. I plan to buy both original CDs sometime soon again, as I really want them in my collection.

I've recently recommended Castrum to my friend Ron, he usually loves all I recommend, but - he downloaded Castrum, listened and said it's a disgusting Cradle of Filth copy. I don't know if it is, as it was formed pretty damn early, I have no idea if Castrum were influenced by CoF back then or if they just made their own thing that ended up sounding like CoF.

Anyhow, now we can finally get to the point. Castrum was the first ever Croatian Black Metal band. They made a demo and two full-length albums, and this (first) full-length was released (as I believed for my entire life) as a promotional CD and as a full-length CD with different cover artwork and tracklist. But recently, I came across a Discogs page where one guy was selling the tape promo version of this album. I contacted him and it turns up he's from Zagreb where I live, so we met and he gave me this cassette in person.

Okay, so what do I have to say about the tape? It's a normal TDK tape + very nice cardboard layout; It isn't handnumbered, but I've asked Insanus (who played guitars and keyboards for Castrum) how limited this tape is, and he said only 50 copies or less were made.
I guess what I should have said in this review, instead of all the peronal stuff, is what the tape sounds like? Well, you know, maybe Ron was right, maybe Castrum were influenced by old CoF. I've forgot to ask Insanus if they were. In any case, I'm not a fan of CoF, I don't really know what they sounded like back in the 90's. I only know what Castrum sounded like. So I choose not to compare. Maybe it is better to listen to this completely open minded. It's sympho melodic black metal, with very enjoyable high pitched vocals, dominating keyboards and strong guitar melodies. I think it's perfect and epic and would truly recommend this to everyone, every song's catchy and special in it's own way. The atmosphere is very vampiric/gothic and dark, the production's maybe even too good for 90's standards. It really feels like listening to some better known band, not an obscurity as Castrum is.

I have to mention few really atmospheric masterpieces before I finish this review, Tears of Piano and last track called For Those Wistful Moments in the Mist which is something even Summoning would be proud of! Tears of Piano is played so fucking perfectly, sensitively, delicately, it's orgasm for my soul. So sad. So gentle. So evil but good. So hopeful. So personal. It's like looking at a big tsunami, the end of your world approaching, and you're just standing there, knowing you're done, seeing your life and everything truly as it is for the first time, accepting, feeling those are last moments you have and just kind of grasping every feeling with your soul, every touch, the feel of wind and cold, the sight of panic and hopelessness around you, while turning into a rock, a memory, a thought until you finally are done - you end, you disappear, and noone cares, and only a small symphony is left... nothing else.

Yeah so basically, I'd recommend Castrum even if they weren't from my country. I really would. I see this band as one of the most tallented bands in the 90's. I'm glad to have the original cassette and a CD too soon. I don't really think you'll be able to order this tape as it's so limited.

Also, I think cover artwork is beautiful and I have to say it kind of reminds me of another one of my all time favorite sympho Black Metal albums -  For all Tid by Dimmu Borgir, I guess because of the colors.

I've already wrote far too much, so nothing else to say than I hope you'll appreciate this.

                     Download my tape rip (mp3@CBR320kbps + pics and scans) @


  1. Thanks for sharing! This is an important band for you and naturally it is then hard to appraise or compare it neutrally so I can guess Ron's "a disgusting Cradle of Filth copy" must've struck a nerve! The CoF influence is quite obvious, the '94 debut "Principle of Evil Made Flesh" made a big and pretty wide impression when it was released, and some people were familiar with their demos before that. But I would not definitely go as far as Ron, that was unfair.

    Based on the one listen I've managed so far I found it quite agreeable, moreso than some of the later 'Filth output. Lacking such an intimate relationship with the band and having heard "Principle..." when it was fresh I've a different perspective, as expected. I'll need to listen more with a clear head but tentatively let's say I liked it. Heh, funny you associate the cover with "For all tid"'s overtly colourful version but it's natural. I think they screwed up the intro at least on that version.

    1. Now that I think about the whole comparing to CoF thing, I didn't consider how CoF back then wasn't as gay and bad as it is now, and sounding like them was a compliment instead of an inslult back then. Even if I try to be objective, I still think Castrum sounded very good for 90's scene of my small country.
      And you didn't complain about the sound and rip, so I'm guessing I succeeded in making it sound okay, and won a battle against this cursed tape, "the one who resisted being properly ripped for a month". :)