(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Norway’s Blood Red Throne.)
Eight albums in and it still feel like Norwegian wrecking crew Blood Red Throne never quite get the respect they deserve. I mean, by this point the band are effectively a Death Metal institution, and even their lesser albums (of which there aren’t many) are still more than capable of levelling a small town.
Maybe Union of Flesh and Machine will be the album to change that. Or maybe it won’t. Only time will tell. But it’s hard to deny that the band’s latest album is yet another top-tier terminator of crushing, grooving, blasting belligerence and cold, calculated aggression.
Of course the underlying elements which make up the Blood Red Throne sound haven’t changed – a proprietary formula of grim-faced, Cannibal Corpse-style brutality and lurching, …Southern Trendkill groove, bathed in a bloody splattering of menacing melody and littered with razor-sharp hooks – but the delivery feels just that notch tighter, that micron sharper, and somehow even more intense this time round.
One member in particular who has definitely stepped his game up on UoFaM is returning vocalist Yngve “Bolt” Christiansen (whose participation in these recordings was, for a while, very much in doubt), who easily eclipses his previous turn on the band’s 2013 self-titled album, delving lower, reaching higher, and just generally digging deeper into his own internal cesspool of hatred and loathing in order to produce an absolutely monstrous performance behind the microphone.
Not that the rest of the band are slouches either, with both Daniel Olaisen and Ivan Gujic laying down a scorching suppressive salvo of flesh-ripping, neck-snapping riffs across the length and breadth of the album’s eleven tormented tracks, while the rhythm section of bassist Ole Madsen and drummer Freddy Bolso (returning to the fold for the first time since 2001’s Monument of Death) lay down some truly punishing/grinding/grooving/blasting bottom end to complement their six-string siblings in sonic sadism.
Above and beyond the generally murderous nature of the band’s performance on UoFaM, the album’s real strength is in its sheer, propulsive intensity, as the initial barrage of the whiplash-inducing “Revocation of Humankind”, “Proselyte Virus”, and the merciless ground-n-pound of “Patriotic Hatred” hits you with enough concussive force to practically take your breath away – riffs and blastbeats flying like shrapnel while the ground itself seems to shake to the sound of Christiansen’s gargantuan growl and shudder to the beat of Bolso’s bunker-busting kick-drums.
In fact, it’s usually not until the final frenzied bars of “Martyrized” (or perhaps the opening moments of the morbidly groovesome title-track) that you find yourself actually remembering that, yes, you do need to breathe once in a while.
Now if there’s a fault to be found here, and I’m happy to be contradicted on this, it’s that the album is, arguably, a song or two too long (though this may be an issue of the promo I received not indicating what is/isn’t a “bonus” track).
In this writer’s humble (ha!) opinion, while both the re-recorded “Mary Whispers Of Death” and “Leather Rebel” (yes, that “Leather Rebel”) are solid enough (with the latter in particular practically revelling in all its goofy glory, even as it makes a strong case that all Amon Amarth songs are just made up of sped-up and down-tuned Judas Priest riffs…), neither has quite the same level of climactic impact as the humongous finale to “Primal Recoil”, which ever so slightly deadens the album’s final killing blow.
Still, that’s a minor issue in the long run (and one that I’m sure will be roundly disputed by some), as for 99% of its running-time UoFaM finds the crimson-clad sons of Kristiansand operating right at the top of their game.
As much as I praised their self-titled effort back in 2013 (an assessment I still stand by) I have to admit that BRT have stepped things up even further on this one. It may not be the album to finally break the band through to the level of critical and commercial acclaim they so rightly deserve, as that window may well have closed by now, but if there’s any justice in the world it’ll still smash down a few more doors and crack a few more skulls for them.
Who knows, maybe one of them will be yours?
Union of Flesh and Machine will be released by Spinefarm and Candlelight on July 15. Pre-order here or on iTunes. Depending on your geographic location, you can listen to one or three songs below.