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This is a Gorgoroth release I have more than a little trouble really getting into; for some reason it feels more primitive than the previous two albums, despite being musically and technically more complex in many ways. In yet another step away from 'Pentagram', this feels even more 'conventionally black metal' than 'Antichrist', as well as incorporating a greater level of thrash influence into what was originally an almost uncomfortably pure strain of BM. Perhaps it's not just my thing, but it's somewhat irritating to be able to see the artistry and interesting elements of a release but not be able to connect with them fully.
For instance, first legendary track 'Revelation Of Doom'; brutal, punishing percussion under a cascading array of thrashy black metal riffs and immensely hateful vocals from Pest, one of the most utterly misanthropic and chaotic black metal tracks I've ever heard... and yet I'm unable to connect with it on some fundamental level. Perhaps part of it is the production which obscures the riffs under a constant pounding of torturous snare, or perhaps there's just a sort of dissonance comparing this openly brutal, one-note music with the more artistic and subtle works of the past, but either way, I can enjoy it on an abstract level but not 'take it in', or so to speak. It goes like that with the rest of the album (though it is a bit more palatable with drums not quite so domineering in the scheme of the overall sound). Despite the music being good, the gap is not bridged between listener and recording.
The riffing seems peculiarly raw and off time on this recording, perhaps due to the greater thrash influence on this recording versus the rather binary black metal riffs of the previous albums. I like this a lot on an aesthetic level; it's excruciatingly raw, not so much in sound quality but in writing and playing; I genuinely get the feel that each member was specifically attempting to punish the audience while writing and recording these monstrosities which can barely be called songs. But again, that appreciation comes from a distance, and I'm unable to assemble these noisy little Satanic anthems into something greater in my mind. Maybe I'm thinking about it too hard, but 'Pentagram' and 'Antichrist' seemed to encourage the listener to dive into the dark, cold atmosphere while 'Under The Sign Of Hell' seems to rebuff such attempts. It's truly brutal and cruel music, but it lacks something in the way of atmosphere and accessibility for me.
Really, I chalk this up to being one of those albums that simply doesn't click for me in the way it does for others. I can't really dissuade someone else from giving this album a try; most find it very compelling and a fantastic entry in Gorgoroth's catalog. I'd be lying if I said it was a great album, though, because if it is, I simply can't hear it.