Mar 302023

Recommended for fans of: Necrophobic, Naglfar, God Dethroned

I was honestly spoilt for choice this month when it came time to choose which band to cover.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was going to be a Black Metal band, but choosing between Thron, Downcross, Mork, Aara, Afsky, Lamp of Murmuur, and Nemesis Sopor was almost too difficult a task… which is why you’re going to get two editions of The Synn Report this month!

The subjects of today’s article deal in a particularly high-intensity form of Black Metal – big on both riffs and melody, with just a dash of deathly power and a touch of gothy glamour – that hits many of the same hook-heavy highlights as the likes of Necrophobic and Naglfar (the former especially), all propelled by the sort of electrifyingly extreme drum work that wouldn’t sound out of place on a God Dethroned or Dark Funeral album.

The group’s songwriting skills, however, are more than sharp enough to separate them from their peers, especially on their new album, Dust, which I’d say is the best of their impressive career so far.

Before we get to that though… there’s three other albums for you to sink your proverbial teeth into!

2017 – THRON

The group’s self-titled debut album is, appropriately enough, a great place to start getting to know Thron, with the simple-yet-sinister, and oh-so-effective, tremolo runs of “Purified In Fire” immediately setting the record’s tone – darkly melodic, and heavily guitar-focussed, with a penchant for bombastic riffage and a passion for ecstatic leads – before “Satan’s Speech” then ups the ante with an even more vibrant and venomous vocal performance and an even more dynamic blend of anthemic energy and brooding atmosphere (especially during the track’s grimier, groovier second half).

“The Blacklist” is, if anything, even more of an anthem than its predecessor (at times hinting at the catchy-yet-proggy approach of latter-day Skeletonwitch as it gallops along) with practically every bar absolutely packed with infectious lead melodies and irresistibly neck-wrecking rhythms, after which the fantastically-titled “Orphaned by the Undertaker” adopts an even darker hue – melodically-speaking – while also sharpening up the guitar work even further in an impressively Dissection-esque manner.

With “Mutilation of the Unholy” Thron continue to prove that Black Metal can be just as shamelessly riff-happy as any other genre, with the song’s furious guitar work and ripping lead lines possessing a thrilling, almost thrashy, energy, while “Bloodfeast” errs closer towards the deathlier side of things – while still remining firmly within the realms of Black Metal, make no mistake – and in doing so proves itself to be one of the heaviest, and most head-bangable, tracks on the album.

Closing with the one-two punch of “The Evilution of Satan” and “Blackest Hell to Come” – the former’s mix of scything blastbeats, chunky riffs, and unepxectedly moody and minimalist mid-section sowing the seeds for the band’s future “evilution” (sic), the latter closing the record in one final rush of writhing riffage and seething tremolo melody – there’s no question that Thron represents an early draft of what the band would go on to become… but it’s one worth taking some time to appreciate all the same!

2018 – ABYSMAL

A little over a year and a half later the band were back with their second album, and once “Beyond the Gates” kicks in you can instantly tell that, even in this relatively short space of time, they’ve evolved into an even more powerful form.

Everything sounds bigger, heavier, and that little bit nastier – the group’s use of melody now possessing a slightly more discordant edge while still retaining all its instantly infectious virulence – with the thicker, meatier guitar (and bass) tone(s) and more aggressively enunciated vocals in particular taking up more sonic space in the mix, while still leaving room for the leads to shine and the drums to punch through.

Both “Beyond the Gates” and its sequential sibling, “Under a Bloodred Sky” certainly share more than a few similarities to prime-era Necrophobic (especially their post-Bloodhymns period), but the more muscular and more deathly heft to the guitars (these guys can really crank out some top-notch riffage?) and willingness to push the boat out when it comes to song lengths and structures (“Under a Bloodred Sky” being one of two tracks that crack the seven minute mark) certainly helps Thron stake their own claim to this particular territory.

Sure, occasionally you might find the echoes a little too strong to ignore (the rippling acoustic intro and killer chorus refrain of “A Spark of Divinity”, for example, could have come directly from Death to All if you didn’t already know otherwise) but the band’s obvious enthusiasm and undeniable passion for the music still bleeds through in every single song, whether that’s in the shape of the sinuous, God Dethroned-esque “Dead Souls”, the electrifying guitar-heroics of “Hidden in Shadows”, or the ambitious, yet restrained, slow-burn towards cathartic climax that is the aptly-named “A Glorious Ride”.

The coiled tremolo lines, rapacious blastbeats, and icy melodies of “Blood of Serpents” make this particular song perhaps the most “pure” Black Metal track on the album (and, potentially, of the band’s career), while “The Wrath of Gods” embraces a much more Blackened Death aesthetic part-way between Sacramentum and the aforementioned God Dethroned, along with a punky sense of groove reminiscent of Watain, in a way which is somehow still more than just the sum of its parts, before the densely woven tapestry of riffs, leads, chords, and melodies that is “The Shrines” brings the whole thing to a triumphant close.

2021 – PILGRIM

Whatever happened during the three years between Abysmal and Pilgrim seems to have only made Thron leaner, and meaner, with opener “The Prophet” practically leaping out of the gate like it was on fire, displaying both an altogether more furious demeanour and a harder-edged, heavier-hitting guitar tone at the same time.

But while the group have obviously upped the aggression this time around, they’ve also indulged their more progressive and anthemic inclinations even more too, with moments like the gothic, mood-heavy mid-section of “The Prophet” and the shamelessly swaggering grooves of “To Dusk” (whose fluid rhythmic dynamic really gives both the bass and drums space to shine) possessing a gloomy allure and caustic catchiness that sits somewhere between early Tribulation and classic Tiamat.

On a not-dissimilar note, the impressively intricate drum work and cleverly layered riffs and leads of “Nothingness” recall the best of Dark Fortress (especially circa-Eidolon) in the way they smoothly and sinuously flow back and forth between commanding, doom-laden groove and blistering blackened intensity, showing off the group’s captivating amalgamation of Black Metal’s icy fury with Heavy Metal’s blazing heart.

“Hosanna in the Highest” continues to display the band’s fearless fusion of classic and “kvlt” elements, as well as their increasingly striking technical talents, after which the scene-setting interlude of “Epitome” provides a welcome (and necessary) breather before “The Revenant” – eight minutes of deliriously infectious tremolo melodies, lithe, undulating bass lines, and magnificently multi-faceted guitar work that might just be the most ambitious song the group have written yet – takes things to a whole new level.

Distinguishing itself from its more “epic” predecessor by virtue of its relative simplicity, “The Valley of the Blind” then delivers the goods as a classic Black Metal aggro-anthem, pissing lightning and spitting venom (as well as the odd chaotic, thrashy solo) over the course of a little over five furious minutes, after which “Den of Iniquity” organically combines a bit of Dissection, a bit of Dismember, and a bit of King Diamond into a gloomy, gritty, groovy piece of Blackened Heavy Metal art.

Culminating in the climactic pairing of “Gaia” (where the band show off some subtly symphonic aspirations) and the icily atmospheric “In Disarray” (whose chilling ambience is matched only by the biting cold of its riffs) there’s absolutely no question that Pilgrim is the sound of a band truly on the cusp of greatness.

2023 – DUST

Perhaps the best thing about Dust is that it feels like the band really wanted to expand their sound in a lot of different directions at once… and somehow managed to pull it off.

On the one hand, the riffs are some of the biggest and beefiest they’ve ever written (really emphasising those God Dethroned comparisons which have cropped up now and then already in this article) but, at the same time, the shameless swagger of the songwriting and the sheer size of the hooks owes a huge amount to the old gods – Judas Priest and Mercyful Fate in particular – of Heavy Metal, while the increasing injection of proggier passages is reminiscent of artists like Tiamat, Edge of Sanity, and their ilk (in the best possible way).

And it’s this diverse DNA which, ultimately, gives Dust its vitality and versatility (scientists would call it “hybrid vigour”) – with each and every song taking on the best aspects and elements of its influences and weaving them together into something that lives and breathes Black Metal in its most infectious and unrestrained form.

Whether this is in the form of the rapid-fire riffs and ravenous blastbeats of “Dying in the Mud”, the viral melodies of “Return…”, or the spellbinding, Sentenced-esque strut of “The True Belief”, Dust is packed with some of the best – and tightest – songs the band have ever written, and their willingness to think a little more outside of the box than many of their peers (“The Golden Calf”, for example, is full of riffs and rhythms and proggy passages that draw clear inspiration from outside of the Black Metal spectrum) really helps them stand out from the crowd.

Of course, if you are just looking for a dose of blackened belligerence and deathly fury, then tracks like “Monologue” (sample lyric: “Distrust all your heroes, distrust all your kings“) and the Necrophobic-esque “The Eve” have all the face-melting blastbeats and finger-blistering riffs you could ever want, but it’s when the band throw all their various influences into the pot – such as during the Blackened Heavy Metal brilliance of “Into Oblivion” (a song I’d take over most of the current crop of throwback “gothic” Heavy Metal revivalists any day of the week) or the scalding Black/Death doom ‘n’ gloom of “The Tyranny of I” – that they reap the richest rewards.

Sure, there’s an argument to be made that Dust is ever so slightly too long for its own good (I’m not 100% convinced that “Face of Despair” offers all that much that isn’t done better elsewhere on the album), but it definitely ends on a stunningly strong note, first with the scintillating leads and primal guitar heroics of “The Wrong God” and then with the cathartic fury and crooked hooks of devastatingly dynamic closer “Martyr” (just wait for that mid-song break and then the subsequent explosion of force), proving itself to be, by some margin, the best album of the band’s career… so far.

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