Among the first Dutch black metal bands in the early nineties, Countess have always set themselves apart from other bands by a fierce loyalty to their old school influences. For two and a half decades, while fashions came and went, Countess stayed true to their vision and thus earned a worldwide cult status in the metal underground.

In spite of their sworn allegiance to metal orthodoxy, Countess have never shied from innovation. In 1994 they created the first black metal song with Dutch lyrics (Bloed In De Sneeuw) and in 1997 were among the first bands to take a rocking approach to the genre (Hell's Rock & Roll).

Over the course of 25 years and 15 full-length albums, Countess' sound has evolved from the raw black metal of the early releases towards a more traditional heavy metal-influenced style. The band's most recent offering, Fires Of Destiny in 2016, being a powerful example of a seamless integration of heavy and black metal elements.

In 2014 the band returned to the stage after a long period of not having played live. Since then, Countess have performed impressive shows at numerous prestigious metal festivals in their own country, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Finland.

The core of Countess consists of long-time members Orlok (vocals, bass) and Zagan (guitars) who both have been involved with the project since the nineties. They were recently joined by Mortüüm (drums, 2015) and Häxa (keyboards, 2016) to complete what is probably the band's strongest formation to date.

November 02, 2016

Live album recorded twenty years ago

On November 2, 1996 we recorded a live album that was never released. In honour of the twentieth anniversary of this occasion, Orlok recalls the album's history.
"Back in the mid-nineties, when we played live people were always telling us that our songs sounded much better live than they did on the albums. So we got the idea to do a live album. We arranged a gig at the place where we usually rehearsed in Schiedam, which was also sort of a club and there was a studio there as well, which would make recording the gig relatively cheap and easy.

The intended cover for the live album

We picked a bunch of songs for inclusion on the album and rehearsed these pretty well. Most were from the first four albums, but we included a few new ones as well. On the day of the gig we rehearsed in the afternoon, then set up the recording equipment together with the engineer. Then we just played the gig, which went really well. We didn’t feel any real pressure because of the fact the gig was being recorded.

The atmosphere in the club was great. Even when there weren’t that many people, they were all really into the music. Too bad we forgot to aim a few mikes at the audience, so you can't really hear the crowd on the actual album. Among the chosen few attending were Opyros and some other German guys we had met when we’d played in Berlin and Leipzig earlier in the year. They had all come to Holland for the single purpose of witnessing this gig, making it something quite special.

The band, the engineer (on the far right) and several members of the audience after the show

A few days after the gig, we all went back to the place and spent an evening and the entire night on finishing the album. First, we listened to everything. Then we did a few overdubs here and there to correct some minor errors and then we started mixing, which is where this album went somewhat wrong. I blame that on the fact that it was really late and the engineer was gulping down whiskey in large quantities.

The full live album on YouTube

Of course, we decided to found our own label not too long after the recording of this live album. We recorded and released the 'Hell's Rock & Roll' EP in early 1997 and planned to release the live album later that year, to be entitled 'Into Battle'. However, it is a matter of history that the EP sold very badly and there were no funds to release the live album.
There would be no more Countess releases for a few years until the band resurfaced on Opyros’ new label Barbarian Wrath. By then, the live album was already a few years old and since there was always more than enough new material to release, releasing this live album was something that never even came up.

Several tracks from the live album have been released, though: 'On Wings Of Azazel' was included on the aforementioned EP, as a teaser for the full live album and the three Dutch-language tracks were added to 2004's 'Heilig Vuur' album as bonus tracks. In 2014, the live rendition of 'Kneel Before The Master's Throne' was added to the CD re-release of 'The Gospel Of The Horned One' by New Era Productions and Heidens Hart. In the meantime, we also made the full live album available for streaming on our official YouTube channel.
Looking back, I think the live album could have sounded much better with a better mix. That being said, it still is a worthy document. This is what Countess was at this point in time."

UPDATE: On February 24, 2017 the live album was finally released after all these years, on cassette by New Era Productions and Heidens Hart. Professionally copied, limited to 100 copies. Additionally, it is now also available digitally on our official Bandcamp site.