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Average to Excellent Norwegian Black Metal - 83%

Ferturi, April 16th, 2012

Gorgoroth's sophomore effort is definitely a source of mixed opinions among black metal enthusiasts. While most of them regard Pentagram and Under the Sign of Hell as masterpieces, this one is loved by some and hated by others, and it's easy to see why: the style of this album is stuck between the other 2 mentioned ones. Sometimes it goes for the rawness and bleak atmosphere of the first album (Possessed by Satan) and sometimes for the more melodic approach of the following one (Gorgoroth), which makes the album feel uncohesive as a whole (having 2 different vocalists doesn't help). And this, together with its very short length, gives it a feel of a compilation of leftover tracks, instead of a full-lenght main effort (similar to future release Destroyer).

Still, I think this album is a lot stronger than Destroyer and deserves some praise. The first thing to notice is that all of the tracks were composed by guitarist Infernus, while more than half of the tracks in the debut were composed by then-drummer Goat Pervertor. In the debut you can clearly see the difference between the very harsh style of Goat Pervertor's songs (like Katharinas Bortgang) and the more melodic and melancholic feel of the Infernus-penned songs (like Ritual and Crushing a Scepter). In this album it's the latter style that dominates, as Infernus still couldn't emulate very well the harshness of songs like Katharinas Bortgang by himself in this period, which may be a reason for many fans finding this album boring.

After a very useless intro, the first song is Bergtrollets Hevn and I see it as wasted potential: it does have some nice melodic riffs with a slightly viking feel, but they are low in the mix and hard to discern under the drums and distortion. It's an okay song but nothing spectacular, and I think it could have been a lot better with different production.

Then comes my favorite song on the album (and one of my favorites in the band discography): Gorgoroth. This is the one in which Infernus fully displays his composing skills. It starts with a very melodic and melancholic tremolo riff with a beautiful viking-ish melody playing on the bass guitar (very audible by the way) before turning into a savage black metal attack with Hat's demonic vocals. By the end of the song you get some great melancholic clean vocals, extremely melodic riffing and even a cool solo (with a lot of tremolo, of course). The whole song feels unusually melodic, complex and epic for the band at that time, but I think it's very effective. This is the kind of song you feel the urge to play when you're outside in a dark cold night, which is exactly my definition of a great black metal track.

After that there's a big change: the next song "Possessed (by Satan)" is a very primitive and minimalist one in comparision to the one before. I guess this is Infernus trying to emulate the rawer style of Goat Pervertor's songs in Pentagram, but it doesn't pay off too well. Instead of feeling harsh and intense, this one is more monotonous and focuses on groove (again, unusual for the band) and it feels amateur. Even the vocals are not that good (I love Pest's vocals in the next album, but here he sounds very weak and frog-like) and the little I can make out of the lyrics sounds childish. I won't deny it's a catchy tune, which is probably why it's still part of their live setlist, but it's far from my favorite in this album.

Then comes the mostly instrumental "Heaven's Fall" which returns to the more melodic folk-inspired style of the "Gorgoroth" song. I do enjoy this one a lot, as again it displays some very good melodic riffing from Infernus, though I think it would have worked better with vocals and it frankly doesn't come close to the greatness of Gorgoroth. The album ends with a long slower piece called "Sorg" (sorrow), and it does live to its name as it's a very sad and depressing tune. While also an interesting new approach by the band, I can't help but to feel bored by it, it would have been a nice album closer if it didn't go on for so long.

And so the album ends, and as I said it doesn't feel cohesive, but very messy instead. On the plus side: it has a lot more variation than the debut and Infernus' melodic songwriting really shines on tracks like Gorgoroth and Heavens Fall, on the negative side: Bergtrollets Hevn is mostly ruined by its production, Possessed (by Satan) feels too amateur and Sorg gets boring really quick. Still, it's an enjoyable album and an essential part of Gorgoroth's discography and norwegian black metal, just not as essential as the albums that came before and after it.