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With the benefit of hindsight, I would say that this album was a little under-rated at the time of its release, because it's actually pretty enjoyable. I guess the main problem is that it sounds almost exactly the same as 'The Apocalypse Manifesto': the production, the drums, the vocals, everything... except it's clearly not as good. Then again, perhaps that's unfair: there's an element of primitive, early-Kreator inspired thrash to this album that perhaps wasn't as evident on previous releases, but nevertheless, this will always live in the shadow of its predecessor.
Everything is pretty frantic, and pretty sloppy too. The vocals rage at demoniacal speed, the drums clatter on continuously, though not exactly in a tight fashion. A dozen or more riffs are rehashed from former releases, particularly in the solo department. This is by far Enthroned's least inspired album... but do I enjoy listening to it? Yes! Unashamedly so! If this were the debut from some up and coming act and not the work of an already established and respected band, I'm sure it would be looked upon more favourably. It may not have the atmosphere of the first two releases, the ferocious impact of '...Apocalypse...', or the sheer might of 'Xes Haereticum', but at least it has more energy and enthusiasm than the rather lack-lustre 'Tetra Karcist', the album that saw Sabathan exiting the band for good.
Perhaps my opinion is tainted by my age. I was way too young to be in to 'A Blaze in the Northern Sky' on its release. I would say that, when Enthroned came to my attention in 1998 they were pretty much the first TRUE black metal band I'd heard. I've loved them ever since. Sure, this is an imperfect album, but it shouldn't be disregarded and ignored simply on the grounds that it's not Enthroned's best.
I recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed other works by the band. It sure ain’t essential, but don’t be put off by the poor reviews it has always garnered since its original inception, as this is definitely worth a few spins at least.
Enthroned never missed an album in their career till the great “The Apocalypse Manifesto”, but with this one they had a decline. Anyway I don’t consider this one a totally bad album. Surely this is their worst one. Try to forget the hellish production of the previous one, the songwriting of their first two masterpieces, or the good lead guitar work, a trademark in their sound.
Let me say that the violence is always present and rooted in their sound but for example in “Wrapped By Fire” is a violence that leads nowhere in terms of songwriting and creativity. The rhythm guitars have been already heard several times and in a better way in other albums. The lead guitars have less creativity too. The production is quite raw compared to “The Apocalypse Manifesto” and a bit bad for the drum work, always a bit hidden behind the loud guitars.
Sabathan's vocals are always evil and screamed to excess and in the title track finally we can breath the essence of brimstone because this is a quite good one, with a quite good guitar work but nothing if compared to the past. “Enslaved Revealed” has a thrash beginning, quite interesting but not totally Enthroned style, followed by a generic guitar riff. Anyway a quite boring song.
“Spell From The Underground” has a good riffage followed by an odd riff at 1:45, actually not very good. The solos are fast and the tempos are less energetic…The thrashy influences return in the violent “Spheres Of Damnation” (nice) and the fast “The Face Of Death”, this one not enthusiastic but only quite good. “When Hell Freezes Over” has an interesting doomy beginning with a fast restart at the guitar solo. Maybe the best song here.
The two hyper-fast-thrashy songs at the end of the album are a bit generic and only in “Terminate Annihilation” we have good lead guitar lines but, all in all a quite boring and generic album…not Enthroned style. It’s not insufficient in my opinion but not so good. Simply generic…