The heavyweight Danish death metal band Thorium are just a few days days away from releasing their fifth album in a career that’s now more than two decades in the making. With Denmark, they again prove both their devotion to undying traditions of the old school(s) and their talent for making them come vibrantly and viciously alive in the here and now.
Students and lovers of death metal know that there’s not just one old school of the craft, and Thorium draw their influence from multiple institutions — from the chainsaw chugging and creepy eeriness of Swedish death metal to the faster and more vicious variants from the old Floridian scene, and more besides (including a bit of “blackening” on some tracks). They engage in mayhem, but make abundant use of punishing groove, and they have an ear for ear-worm melody that makes the songs catchy as well as gruesome and exhilarating.
And so it’s a genuine pleasure for us to host a premiere stream of Danmark in its entirety, in advance of the April 29 release by Emanzipation Productions.
Thorium anchor Danmark in the ancient cemetery earth of massive, ravaging riffs, tuned to a mangling and mauling level of distortion. Whether the guitars are morbidly dragging, chugging like a huge freight train, barbarically charging, rumbling like a tank attack, or swarming in a frenzy, it’s a savagely destructive sound.
And the music does move a lot. The pacing of the songs is dynamic, with the drumwork continually shifting gears between pulverizing hammer blows, full-throttle gallops, measured piston-like pumping, and bullet-spitting blasts (with plenty of athletic fills in the mix).
On top of that, the band overlay a cornucopia of utterly vicious, jagged-edge vocals, which range from bestial howls to belly-deep roars, gagging grunts, and berserk screams doubled for extra ferocity. Those sounds put us in the presence of a malignant and ruthless tyrant.
Of course, the band also change the moods of the music by infiltrating an array of guitar harmonies and freakishly quivering, swirling, and wailing leads. At times the songs sound dismal and poisonous, at other times hideous and frightening, and at others maniacally ecstatic or braying in displays of monstrous grandeur. By doing this, they give the songs their own “personalities” in the midst of all the neck-wrecking grooves they carve and all the thuggish beatings they administer.
And hell yes, Danmark is packed with convulsive grooves that hit with megaton force, whether it’s the kind that triggers the slow headbang (see especially “The Silent Suffering”) or the kind that pumps your head like a working oil derrick or just pounds like a big pile-driver. This is an album that’s geared to make listeners move — while infecting their heads.
Thorium are as wedded as ever to classic death metal of different stripes (they end the album with a cover of “Into the Gods” by Dominus from 1993’s Astaroth demo), but the songwriting is so variable and so consistently good that it’s going to appeal not only to the most die-hard of old-school maniacs but also to fresh ears. When you’ve got the kind of X-factor that Thorium have, which makes old school DM come alive in the present day, the results should be welcomed with open arms.
Danmark was recorded live during a single week at Angioni Studios and was mixed by Jacob Bredahl at Dead Rat Studio, and the results channel the feeling of rawness and spontaneity that’s usually best gotten from a live performance.
Danmark will be released on LP (white and black vinyls, each limited to 300 copies), CD, and digital formats on April 29th. Emanzipation Productions recommends it for fans of Morbid Angel, Deicide, and Dismember.