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Before I say any more, let me set one thing straight: this is the first black metal album I have ever listened to.
Now, with that premise set straight, let's discuss the album. I was hesitant to look into it at first, as I was with the black metal genre in general. I don't actually know anyone in real life who likes black metal, so everything I had ever heard about the genre was about the over-the-top anti-religious antics of the musicians, the blasphemy of the lyrical subject matter, and the elitism of the scene. None of this sounded pleasant. However, as human nature is, we often seek the things that are the least pleasant or the most threatening. One dreary evening on the archives, I stumbled my way onto this page and saw myself looking at what I thought to be an oddity. An album by Gorgoroth, one of the most notorious black metal acts, that looked plain and conservative from the exterior and had received rave reviews. I made a note to return to this album, and to cut the story very short, I am thrilled that I did.
It's difficult for me to pick out anything to not like about this album - within reason, of course. If you're the type of person who can't stand abrasive vocals, be it growling or screaming, then this is probably the wrong website for you anyway. I certainly was not expecting cleans when Begravelsesnatt began, but what I wasn't expecting was how vicious Hat sounds. I have never heard a comparable vocal performance. I've listened to more than my share of death metal with unintelligible vocals, but Hat's vocals are unintelligible for a reason I've never before encountered. In the realm of death metal you find vocalists gurgling into a pitch shifter, which produces predictable results. In the case of Hat, the sole purpose of his performance is to emulate possession by Satan. He succeeds phenomenally in this role. I have no adjectives to aptly describe it.
So, the rest of the band. The production sounds about right for what I've heard of black metal. It's rough around the edges and unrefined, which doesn't bother me one bit. In all honesty, the production for this album is perfect. It's an exact fit for what the band was trying to do. The bass is thin and difficult to hear, but it's not an instrument of serious emphasis in this style of metal. Infernus sounds solid on the guitar, and I'll give him credit for a great performance, but the real standout in the instrumental section of the band is Goat Pervertor on the drums. The man is a machine. We've all heard fast drumming and mind-boggling blast beats before, but the endurance displayed on tracks like Måneskyggens Slave is what catches my attention. To play blast beats at that tempo for that long a duration is extraordinary.
The songs themselves are phenomenal. Coming into the album as a complete novice in the realm of black metal, I can say without question that I now understand what black metal is. It's perfectly clear to me that this is a genre defining album. From the opening notes of Begravelsesnatt, I was hooked on this album. As an opener, Begravelsesnatt is about as effective as it can get. It's fast, it's got memorable riffs, and it does its thing and then moves along. It unambiguously states the direction of the remainder of the album's contents. Each individual song has its golden moments. There is no filler.
Ritual is the song which convinced me that I, in fact, like black metal. The slow "breakdown" that starts about half a minute in is probably the most malevolent and outright evil thing I've ever heard. Like much of the rest of the album, it sticks in your head. It's memorable, and for an album to be memorable is a very positive quality. The same goes for the case of Måneskyggens Slave. There have only been a few songs which have left me completely floored after the final notes were played, and Måneskyggens Slave is now one of them. The night I listened to the album the first time, I went to sleep tapping out the drum beat on my mattress with my fingers, the chord progression running through my head. For an album as bleak as this is, how could I feel so fulfilled from listening to it? The answer is simple. It's AWESOME.
It's obviously dark, it's obviously fast, it's obviously aggressive, etc... What matters is the delivery and quality of songwriting. It's expertly done. The album fails to receive a 100 by one small point because I feel that some of the tracks leading up to Måneskyggens Slave get somewhat uninteresting and because I would really like to see some lyrics, but Gorgoroth decided we aren't good enough to be allowed to see them and that's a really stupid and pretentious thing for a band to do. Outside of those *very* small remarks, this album is perfect and has no flaws. This has opened up an entirely new world of metal for me, and it can for many others, too.