(This is Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by the Norwegian extremists Drottnar, which is being released today by Endtime Productions.)
So it’s only the first week of February and I’m already feeling pretty overwhelmed and behind the curve when it comes to covering and critiquing new albums this year.
Heck, there’s at least three records from 2018 that I still really want to give some extra coverage to, if and when I can actually find the time!
As you might imagine then, this has forced me to make some pretty tough choices about how I use my time effectively and exactly what bands/albums I need/want to write about, with several painful cuts having to be made to my review list to accommodate all the other work, life, and band pressures currently competing for my attention.
Thankfully there are certain artists whose albums are basically guaranteed a write-up, and self-proclaimed “Bunker Metal” battalion (and previous Synn Report recipients) Drottnar are one of them.
Ostensibly a Black Metal band – albeit one with a sharply technical and dissonantly groovesome edge – the three individuals who make up the band have, over the years, developed themselves a subtly unique sound which occupies a distinctive ecological niche in the wild landscape of the genre.
That’s not to say that comparisons can’t be drawn with other bands – in fact I’m probably going to do so quite liberally throughout this piece – but, when all is said and done, these guys definitely have that indescribable “it” factor which helps set them apart from their peers.
Their third album, Monolith, is an unusual one in that it’s actually a collection of the band’s three, previously released, Monolith EPs (with the physical CD also adding on an additional two intro/interlude tracks and an extra closer featuring Jayson Sherlock of Mortification fame) although, surprisingly, this unconventional structure turns out to be more cohesive than you’d expect, largely because each of the three segments/sections of the record builds on and diverges from the one before it in a way that feels both purposeful and organic.
For example, the tracks from Part I – the cruelly catchy “Funeral of Funerals”, the sharp-toothed, red-clawed “Aphelion”, and the rhythmic throb and thrust of “Subterranean Sun” – lean more towards the grim-faced grooves peddled by the likes of Khold and Nachtmystium, albeit in a way that’s still loaded with odd chord phrasings, calculatingly complex percussive patterns, and willfully anomalous arrangements that consistently defy your expectations.
The tracks which make/made up Part II then build upon this by incorporating a heavier focus on heaving dissonance and hypnotic atmosphere – with both “Axiom” and “Charagma” balancing their intensity and aggression against some surprisingly moody and menacing moments of proggy introspection – although the hellish hooks and Satyricon--on-steroids swagger of “Nihilords” tie in nicely with the sound of Part I to help maintain continuity.
The trio may just have saved their best for last, however, as the material which makes up Part III – the Mayhem-esque “Pestlied”, the almost Dodecahedron-like “Antivolition”, and the pounding title-track – mixes up all the band’s previous elements and ideas into a visceral riff-fest of growling distortion, prowling bass-lines, howling vocals, and pounding percussion, demonstrating that Drottnar have lost none of their edge and, in fact, might just be heavier and more abrasive than ever.