(NCS writer Andy Synn reviews the new album from Norway’s Blood Red Throne.)
I’ll tell you now that for me Death Metal is an easy genre to like, a hard one to truly love. But the bands that do it for me, REALLY do it for me. And Blood Red Throne are one of those bands. From the moment a close friend introduced me to “Slaying The Lamb” (off the inimitable Come Death) I was hooked, making it my mission to collect all their previous releases and stay up to date with every subsequent recording and line-up shift.
Perhaps one of the important factors that really drew me into the depths of the band’s crimson hell was the presence of former Emperor collaborator Tchort (also of Green Carnation and Carpathian Forest), his contributions giving each album an air of blackened malevolence that oozed from every pore, immediately setting the band apart from their Floridian-influenced brethren. Accompanying the distinctive and demolishing riffs produced by the pairing of Død and Tchort, the demented and crazed bass-lines flowing from the homunculus fingers of Erland Caspersen are the second key element whose presence is vital to Blood Red Throne’s distinctive sound. His scaly, slithering playing thrums with unholy power, sweeping and weaving with an eerie clarity and electricity that places him firmly in the company of masters such as Webster, Boyer and DiGorgio.
One might notice, however, that the band’s visual aesthetic has definitely shifted this time round, reflecting the major line-up changes that have taken place in the years preceding this record’s birth. With the departure of Tchort and the addition of a new guitarist, Ivan Gujic, and a new drummer, 19 year old prodigy Emil Wiksten, one might worry that this aesthetic shift reflects some fundamental change in the group’s sound. Thank Satan himself, then, that the core membership of main guitarist Død, agile-fingered bassist Casper Erlandsen and gravel-throated frontman Vald have stuck to their guns, demonstrating admirable confidence by preserving the sound and identity which they have developed over the course of 5 albums, refusing to react with knee-jerk predictability to their recent upheavals. (more after the jump . . .)
The album is no rehash, however, but a powerful re-iteration and re-interpretation of the band’s core values, maintaining the consistency and quality of their previous efforts, accented by new tricks and a fresh take on their original inspirations and influences. Død in particular has stepped up his game, proving that the burden of preserving and expanding the sound of Blood Red Throne has fallen firmly and unflinchingly upon his shoulders.
Strikingly, the sheer wealth and breadth of influences that inform the band’s sound have become even more pronounced, yet they never once slip into derivation or idolatry. Tortuous and angular guitar work recalls the steely precision of Atheist, drenched with slimy Morbid Angel malevolence and awkward, back-breaking Pestilence-style rhythmic shifts. Teasing mellifluous bass parts echo Cynic’s brand of spacey, ethereal melody, unexpectedly (yet seemingly effortlessly) mixed into the gatling-gun explosions of hellacious blasting and barbed-wire tremolo runs to weave a tapestry of deathly nihilism and blackened misanthropy
Opener “Brutalitarian Regime” is as punishing and infectious as they come, barbed guitar hooks biting deep into flesh, buzzing with maddening, harmonic malevolence. Vald’s vocals remain as rabid and vicious as ever, his raw growl spewing madness and depravity as the whiplash, neck-snapping riffs jerk and thrust wildly.
“Graveworld” begins with an infectious, shifting riff that quickly morphs into something more single-minded and aggressive, accented by sledgehammer drum beats and that unmistakeable twanging, electric bass tone. The drumming of new recruit Emil Wiksten pulses with youthful energy, but shows a maturity of complexity and composition one would associate with a much more experienced drummer, pummelling with inhuman force yet also easing back when necessary to allow the track to breathe evil in a more measured and expansive way.
“Trapped, Terrified, Dead” epitomises the balance of rawness and refinement the band have captured here, its scalding opening guitars buoyed up by the punchy and organic drumming, before switching effortlessly down a gear to introduce some menacing restraint and a moody, hauntingly melodic bass-line. The true meat of the song sees the band shift into the more blackened, inhuman territory once ruled over by Zyklon, the carrion-call of the vocals laid over a series of scorching tremolo parts, mechanised chugs and storm-ravaged chords.
“Eternal Decay” ups the ante even further, with a furious, blast-driven introduction metamorphosing into a series of angular, dissonant riffs, jerking with neurotic frenzy. A blast-fest for the first half of its run time, it shifts suddenly into a more complex display of swirling, unsettling bass fills, stabbing, discordant guitars and skittering, jazzy drum fills which leads into the two-faced juxtaposition of brutality and technicality that is “Games Of Humiliation”. This song sees the two competing facets of the bands’ sound weaving wildly around one another, titanic death metal riffs steaming ahead with juggernaut momentum, broken up by wild convulsions of madcap, illogical fretwork, with a mid-song slowdown that grinds and grooves with bone-crushing force.
The band know full well that an injection of melody, delivered in the right place and in the right dose, can be just as lethal as the hammer and hacksaw approach, the careful harmonising of guitars and liquid, flowing bass-lines of “The Burning” a testament to the band’s grasp of dynamic range and power. Its spacey opening solo sets the scene for a propulsive display of thunderous kick drums and rolling riffs, the ever present clanging of Caspersen’s bass hooking the listener in time and again while the guitars hammer away with mind-numbing force.
“Proliferated Unto Hemophobia” has a bouncy, off-kilter feel that showcases the talents of their new drummer extremely well, its incalculably wicked and infectious verse riff leading into the track’s melodic and vibrant choral refrain. Bridging the gap between the camps of old-school and new-school death metal, whilst drawing liberally from the nearby wells of technical and blackened death metal, the track bulges with ideas and stylistic expositions, sand-storms of blast-beats and razor-wire tremolo clearing the way for the track’s manifold use of soaring guitar leads and weaving bass-solos, culminating in an unstoppable assault of blitzkrieg death metal.
“Melena” slithers and weaves predatorily, an uber-evolved killing machine of amorphous, chameleonic appearance. The group have that peculiar ability to meld rhythmic complexity and impressive technicality with a strain of virulent, anti-melody, resulting in a seemingly endless armoury of death-force riffs that are as enigmatically complex as they are undeniably catchy. The song’s mid-point sees the introduction of an uncomfortable, sinuous riff that slides and oozes with gut-wrenching, expulsive loathing, before exploding once more into odd-timed drum beats and violently off-kilter, spasming riffage.
The writhing riffs and apocalyptic drums that introduce “Parnassian Cacoepy” signal that the end is near, their crazed and unhinged delivery setting the stage for the unashamedly direct and devastatingly powerful death metal that follows. Caspersen continues to make his unmistakeable presence felt at all times, dragging up the muck and mire of decay through his rumbling, cataclysmic playing and contributing to the web of insanity with his crazed, spidery finger-work, plucking out a warped array of maddening pseudo-melodies. Through all this chaos and confusion, the down-tuned and armour-plated guitars supplement their genocidal brutality with a series of stunningly melodic and nuanced leads, while Vald belches out his cacophonous screams of hellish agony like one undergoing the vilest of torments.
The album closes with a cover of Pestilence’s “Twisted Truth”, which, compared to the original, is a far more brutal and ugly affair at times, whilst at other times it retains the original’s knack for ear-splitting and angular melodies that are more upsetting and uncomfortable than pleasant and soothing. Though the track’s incisive and piercing guitar solo is played with fervour and passion, and the song’s repetitive vocal mantra still maintains its ageless vibrancy, the song itself is still something of a step down from the eye-opening and brain-melting ferocity of Blood Red Throne’s own signature material.
This is a brilliant record, start to finish, showcasing a real wealth of ideas couched in the most brutal and unforgiving of terms. It stands as testament to the boundless confidence and uncompromising nature of the group that the wide array of influences on display here leave only left fingerprints on the chassis of the band’s armoured hull. Shades of Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Atheist, Death, Dark Funeral, Zyklon, and Cynic can all be seen in the blueprints of the band’s sound, but the final construct is a war-machine of singular design.
Best songs: “Graveworld”, “Trapped, Terrified, Dead”, “The Burning”, “Proliferated Unto Hemophobia”, “Melena”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Brutalitarian Regime is out now on Sevared Records. Here’s “Proliferated Unto Hemophobia”:[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/07.-Proliferated-Unto-Hemophobia.mp3|titles=Blood Red Throne – Proliferated Unto Hemophobia]