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Bunch of random demos in one? Not bad... - 70%

PhantomMullet, October 23rd, 2011

It's pretty rare to see a splits that contain 3 or 4 bands, let alone 5! True Kings of Norway has that honor of being one of the few releases to contain at least 5 different bands on its split. Based on the title, one would expect a rudimentary compilation of what Norwegian black metal might sound like. A look at the bands on it would suggest this to be a compilation of what some of the more mainstream Norwegian metal sounds like. I think we can all agree bands like Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, etc appeal more to a mainstream audience than the other Norwegian bands like Darkthrone, Burzum, Ildjarn, etc. Unfortunately, the actual songs listed here aren't very good representations of their respective bands and I think the best approach to discuss this is to go down the list band by band.

Emperor:

The Ancient Queen and Witches Sabbath are awesome songs that represent older Emperor well. They have a very thin sound but are supplemented by synths that create quite an evil atmosphere. Witches Sabbath, in particular, puts me right into the middle of a grim black metal forest (at the risk of sounding like a cliche idiot). No doubt this kind of atmosphere has influenced later black metal projects worldwide. Then we have a gimmicky Lord of Storms, which is really just filler after the first two songs. It's really raw and sounds nothing like the first two.

Immortal:

The three Immortal tracks appear from the self titled EP. Immortal has released better things, but these three tracks are among the best on the split. Unholy Forces of Evil is pretty awesome - I see a lot of influence from older heavy/thrash metal bands, even other bands like Bathory. The Immortal contribution is probably the heaviest part of the split and maybe even the least flawed.

Dimmu Borgir:

Dimmu Borgir's part consists of these generic, melancholic melodic black metal tracks with weak production. Actually, it's not all bad - Raabjorn Speiler Draugheimens Skodde was pretty original back then, utilizing a strong mix of melodic and melancholic ideas. Dimmu Borgir's earlier work was never essential and it took them a bit to come up with more competent material, but this part of the split is still decent.

Ancient:

I'm surprised Ancient made it on here because many people consider them to be a crappier version of Dimmu Borgir that never made it far enough to sell out like they did. Nevertheless, Ancient's contribution on this split is actually one of the highlights and probably one of the better reasons to check this out. Det Glemte Riket has a great intro, featuring synths and acoustic guitars. The production is really messy and you'll have to listen closely to hear everything, but once you can, you'll see Ancient's two tracks are really rich in structure. Ancient and Immortal are really the only two bands on this split that use their lead guitar work well and fit in solos. There isn't as much atmosphere as you'd hope, but there's a lot here that can appeal to many different people. I can't stand most of Ancient's work, but their first demo was pretty competent.

Arcturus:

Arcturus' side is by far the worst of the split. Morax and My Angel are both songs that suffer from conflicted interests where you can only ask yourself, "What the hell were they trying to come up with here." Both tracks come off as a crappy excuse for trying to be avant-garde while still clinging to parts of their generic death metal roots. When you look at the big picture, the two songs are unique not only within Arcturus, but that doesn't mean they are worth listening to. You'd be better off skipping these songs and sticking to the rest of Arcturus' great discography.


To sum up everything, at least half of the songs are good enough, but ultimately what it all may come down to is whether you're interested in checking out some of the bands' hard to find demos. Do you like most of the bands on here? If yes, True Kings of Norway may be worth checking out. For everyone else, you're not missing too much. Either way, this split is still pretty common and you can get it for a cheap price.