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When I first got into Gorgoroth, they had just released their 2006 effort, Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam. The Gaahl/Infernus/King lineup had been there for the past couple of releases and I was not too familiar with the older works of this band. Heck, I didn't even know Gaahl only sang on one track of 'Destroyer', my personal favorite Gorgoroth album to date. All I was really familiar with was Gaahls vocals, which I love, and loved even back then, as well as the guitar work [something about the tones on the past three albums has really stood out to me], and the mood that is set by these dark pieces of art.
After a while I decided to look into the older works of Gorgoroth: Antichrist, Pentagram, and this one, which has stood out to me the most. I thought to myself that since Gaahl was not in the picture, and that these were much older works of Gorgoroth, it was very likely that I could listen to them and think them to be shit.
I was wrong. Not nearly as polished or 'brutal', if you will, as their more recent output, I still consider this album to be a Gorgoroth best, right next to Destroyer. Lower quality production, higher and more shrill vocals, drums that seem distant yet still punishing, and much more atmosphere make this album an all around enjoyable black metal experience.
The vocals were the big thing with me, so lets start with them. I mentioned before that Gaahl's vocals were something I loved. Probably still my favorite aspect of Gorgoroth. However, with Pest singing on this release, the vocals are still really good. Some of the higher pitched black vocals can really annoy me at times, but I really enjoy what Pest has going on here. Not too high or shrill, but still high and shrill nonetheless, and he manages to work his anger and hatred into them. These are high quality black metal vox. The only vocal aspect of the album I did not like was the female 'Aaahhs' on Funeral Procession. It just sounds like someone's mom singing in the shower. They don't really add a whole lot. If you want good choir vocals, male and female, look at Behemoth's 'Grom'.
The drumming was also really cool. On the first track, I thought to myself, 'What the hell? It sounds like someone hitting a metal trash can', but this doesn't last for the whole album and I began to take note of how fast and just plain good the drumming is. Of course, he slows it down when need be, but there isn't a whole lot of slowing down on this album anyway. The drums aren't too up front in the mix and sound a little distant as I mentioned before, but I think it adds quite a bit to the atmosphere.
The overall atmosphere of the album is really enjoyable, and almost trance-inducing at times for me, even during the fast parts. The lower production quality (as compared to newer Gorgoroth releases) may add to this. Sometimes a black metal album can realy take me places and get the imagination going, and this album does the trick.
This album had it's place as my favorite Gorgoroth record until later, when I looked into Destroyer, which is now my personal favorite. Despite this, only when listening to 'Under the Sign of Hell' do I sit back and think 'MAN I love black metal!'.