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The thing with early Gorgoroth is that, although it's far from original, it is kind of like a summary of everything about the second wave Norse scene. Over the years so many people have come and gone in Gorgoroth's lineup, all notables for one other reason or another, and they have links to a score of bands, some newer and a few better than Gorgoroth themselves. Yet, if someone wanted an encapsulation of what Norway was really about from say, 1993 to 1996, and not necessarily the best band or albums of the genre, I might very well say that Gorgoroth is a good reference point. They don't really kick your arse on this album, and the vocals are very much on the goofy side, yet this release manages to put forward the atmospheric bite of early Emperor, the dirge and triumphant gloom (yes, I know it's an oxymoron) of Darkthrone circa "A Blaze in the Northern Sky", and occasionally the trance qualities of Burzum…and it's all rolled up into one, rather short package.
The slower tracks here ("The Ritual" in particular) are awesomely brooding, and the faster majority, while not really distinguishing themselves that much (except maybe for the rather nifty short black metal instrumental), run along at a good clip, like a wolfpack chasing down its prey, you might say. I think the production bares a lot of similarities to Emperor's eponymous EP, though perhaps it's a bit meatier…and therefore the sound is excellent and not at all thin and reedy, though maintaining a certain abrasive quality that is, after all, part of what makes this type of metal enjoyable. as mentioned previously, the vocals are pretty damn strange…Haat reminds me of a baby making cute duck noises…I don't really know why they let him in the band, but thankfully, he didn't stick around till the next release.
So, this is hardly essential, and maybe not as satisfying as the following two Gorgoroth releases. But at the same time, one can't really go wrong with it if Norwegian black metal is what's desired, unless bizarrely incomprehensible and naff vocals really turn you off. The latter point though is easy for me to ignore. This is definitely the most atmospheric of the Gorgoroth releases, and is a nice amalgamation of what made the second wave so good, at least for a time.