(This is Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by the Belgian black metal band Enthroned, which was releasd by Season of Mist on Friday, June 7.)
The human brain works in some funny ways (well, mine does anyway).
Conditioned as it is, by thousands upon thousands of years of evolution, to discern patterns in the surrounding world, sometimes it makes unconscious connections between things which the conscious mind would never have thought to put together.
For instance, ever since receiving the promo for Cold Black Suns I’ve been unable to shake this idea that, on a certain level, Enthroned have a lot in common with Sepultura.
Not musically of course – the two bands could hardly be more different – but it’s undeniable that the careers of both groups are defined/delineated by two distinct phases, each with their respective fans and detractors, and that the split between the two eras can, in simple (and far from comprehensive) terms be put down to a dramatic change in vocalist/frontman.
The difference, however, is that while latter-day Sepultura has proven rather divisive and uneven over the years (though not without its high points), the modern version of Enthroned have only gone from strength to strength, to the point where it seems like a majority of the band’s fans now recognise their current incarnation as the definitive one.
Those people will undoubtedly feel pleased (and vindicated) when I say that Cold Black Suns continues the band’s hot streak established on Obsidium (or, if you want to be even more generous, Pentagrammaton), and tracks like “Hosanna Satana” and “Vapula Omega” deliver the same signature blend of belligerent, blasting fury and baleful, bone-grinding riffs that have helped make Enthroned one of the all-round heaviest Black Metal bands currently plying their trade.
That being said, the band’s eleventh album is arguably at its best during those moments where the group start to test their own boundaries, and there are sections of “Oneiros”, “Silent Redemption” and “Smoking Mirror” where the decision to strip their sound down to a sparse and eerily elegant display of cold, crystalline notes and doomy, abyssal ambience serves to enhance the devilish dynamic and menacing atmosphere of the music tenfold.
It’s colossal closer “Son of Man” — nearly nine minutes of moody malevolence and brooding blasphemy which easily ranks as one of the darkest things the band have ever done – where the group’s more atmospheric ambitions bear their most fertile fruit however, trading in some of their traditional fire and brimstone fury in favour of something several times more ominous and oppressive.
Of course there’s a caveat to all this, which is that the more you begin to appreciate the increasingly haunted and doom-laden aspects of Cold Black Suns the more you realise that the rest of the album doesn’t necessarily do all that much to distinguish itself from its predecessor.
And while that’s not exactly a terrible thing, what with Sovereigns being a fantastic album, the more I listen to CBS the more it feels like the product of a band still in transition, a band reaching out and grasping towards a new darkness, without having fully cast off the surly bonds of their old self.
But make no mistake about it, it’s still a very good album indeed (“Son of Man” especially), and has me very intrigued (and a little impatient) to see what they come up with in the future, assuming of course that they choose to continue down this same, cold black path on their next album.