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So Gorgoroth took their time to come up for a follow up to their first record, "Pentagram", and how... "Anitichrist", their second offering, was released about two years after their debut, and moreover, came out as a 25 minutes long offering (despite the band always referring to it as a regular album... and alas, prices too). Definitely, Gorgoroth have never been the most prolific band to ever grace the Black Metal scene.
This, however, has a lot to do with Gorgoroth's project-like essence in their early years. Basically, after the first line-up collapsed after "Pentagram", Gorgoroth just meant Infernus plus other musicians recruited or borrowed from other bands - not the ideal situation to work fast and efficiently. Despite that, the band managed to keep a very dinstinct sound and attitude through the years. Derivative, of course, and maybe even predictable. Hats off to the consistency and coherence anyway. And let's not forget the main point: they are good at what they do. Really good.
The recording process of "Anitichrist" was somewhat fragmented, yet the album has quite a strong identity on its own. It's not just "Pentagram Part 2" and it's not "Under The Sign Of Hell" either: it's a complete (albeit brief) release on its own. And a very good release, I'd say.
Once again, Infernus is handling the guitars, but this time he is taking care of the bass too. This definitely had some influences on the structures of the songs here, since the guitar / bass interaction is way more developed than it was on the debut (where they had Samoth taking care of the low tones); it certainly makrs quite a step forward in the overall songwriting.
On drums, we find none less than Satyricon's Frost, which pulls off quite an impressive performance: his well know precise drumming provides a solid, dynamic foundation for the songs; he also makes his drumming fit the more minimalistic approach of Gorgoroth by combining his technique with the more basic patterns.
On vocals, two men share the spot on this album: Hat, the band's first screamer, and Pest (of Obtained Enslavement), which will stick with Gorgoroth for a while.
"Antichrist" begins with some seconds of weird noises (labelled as "deathbreath of Satan" in the booklet) isolated in the first track, "En Stram Lukt av Kristent Blod"... pretty awkward, if you ask me, as noticing that one track on a 6 track "album" just consists of that will hardly please any listener at first. Luckily, the real thing gets going right after that.
Enter "Bergtrollets Hevn", and please bang your head right from the first riff. The great groove is an updated version of that we found on "Pentagram", but the intensity is something the band achieved through progression - yes, I said progression. Hat's vocals are kind of surprising, as they are no longer the rather comic screech featured on the debut but a more "professional" rasping attack. Frost's incessant double bass is amazing, and fits perfectly the very square, rhythm based nature of the riffs. After two verses a brief break leads us into a crushing acceleration, which will give way to the return of the opening riff at the end, underlined by Hat's screams. Great song, and great way to open an album.
The sound of wind blowing (presumably over a grey deserted wilderness) introduces us into "Gorgoroth", the longest number of the lot, and one of the band's best. Again, the song begins abruptly, with Frost and Infernus doing their best "Transilvanian Hunger" impression; the layers of guitars and bass create a very melodic and sad atmosphere, before the first verse turns the rhythm into a kind of war march. During a break between the two verses, Hat even performs clean vocals - very quiet, almost whispered, somewhere on the line between sorrowful and menacing. I really had to rate his vocal skills again after hearing this album. After the second verse (with Infernus laying down some slow,solemn leads along the way), the song goes into a much faster part, which can described as simply spectacular: Frost pounds the hell out of his kit, Infernus goes into a jaw-dropping tapping solo and more melodic leads and Hat alternates between ritual-like chantings and ferocious screams. Yes, I am impressed.
"Possessed (by Satan)" is a very weird chapter in this book. The opening riff strongly reminds of old Bathory and Celtic Frost, but soon goes into a more groovy part built upon Frost's very peculiar drumming, his rhythm accents based on the snare and the kick drum coming in more sparsely. He will actually use a very similar patter on Satyricon's "Prime Evil Renaissance" (from the "Rebel extravaganza" album). The song, from its title, seems to be almost intended as a kind of parody, which hardly fits Gorgoroth's uncompromising image; yet, the weird and rather forced sounding accent of the vocals (provided by Pest, and way different from his usual style) and the over he top cheesiness of the lines that can be made out ("we are possessed by evil, we are possessed by Satan! Posseeeeeeesssed! By Saaaataaaan!") seem to confirm this thought. The pace gets faster for a very odd tempoed mid-section, and gets back to the verse riff to end the song.
"Heavens End", the following track, has a structure similar to "Bergtrollets Hevn" rhythm-wise but is a bit more repetitive and less interesting when it comes to the riff. Pity, because this is actually an instrumental (except for a "WHEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYHHA HA HA HAAAAH!!" somewhere in the middle provided by Pest).
The closing track, "Sorg", however, is unique. It begins with sounds of falling rain and thunder cracks, soon joined by a church bell, then the first riff comes in. This song sounds like a Black Metal funeral march, and has quite possibly the most melodic riffs Gorgoroth have ever created. Hat's clean vocals come in again, and have a weird effect that make them sound like a choir of (black) monks. Despite being slow, the whole composition is kept from being repetitive by a nice amount of very strong riffs and some subtle rhythm variations. The last verse is again sung with clean voice, and Hat's last note is made longer by a very strong reverb, left alone to fade away slowly, slowly... a thunder crack and mroe falling rain follow. Fade out, or should I say fade to black?
Despite the short length, the material presented on "Antichrist" is some of the best of the band's catalogue. I'd also like to point out that despite being raw Black Metal, this record (much like its predecessor) has a very clear sound. I often mentioned the great use of the bass that can be found here, and that's because the bass can be heard very clearly, just like everything else.
As I said, Gorgoroth know what they want to do, and how to do it.