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The second studio effort of Thou Shalt Suffer is this 7" vinyl released by Mexico's Distorted Harmony Records. Here are two songs that continue in the tradition of the "Into the Woods..." tape. It's another dose of haunting and dissonant death metal coming from the cold plains of Norway. In many ways this is stronger than the demo material, but I wouldn't necessarily say that it's a clear-cut improvement.
The most notable difference right off the bat is the boosted production. Obviously, because this is on vinyl the sound quality should automatically be better, but it's apparent that some final touches were made in the studio to remedy certain set-backs from the demo recording sessions. I love how they were finally able to bring out the double bass. It gives the drumming a much needed boost of vigor. Not only that, but the bass guitar itself is much louder this time. The keyboards seem to be equally higher in the mix, but sometimes they sound too forced and almost out of place. Ihsahn's vocal style hasn't changed, but there is more reverb to his voice on this recording. Although I prefer the vocal layering on the demo tape, the eerie, distant effect his voice has on the 7" is just as cool to listen to.
"Painful Void of Time" is a traditionally structured song, consisting of recurrent verse/chorus sections. The tempo goes from mid-paced, to doomy, to all-out blasting. The keyboards play a secondary role, only accentuating the main riffs of the song. The slow, doom-like riff played before the chorus sounds like it was stolen from Disgrace's "Waves of Hypocrisy Seas". While not completely identical, it does sound suspiciously similar to these ears. The other track, "Spectral Prophecy", has a lot more going on. The keyboards have now moved into a dominant position over certain sections of the song. The first minute or so is extremely melodic and upbeat because of this. Luckily, the tempo quickly shifts into a speedy assault of violence and blasphemy. The blasting parts during the middle remind me of the JL America band Deteriorate, and, to a lesser extent early Sadistik Exekution. The keys work their way back into the mix with the arrival of some melancholic doom riffing to finish off the track.
These days, Thou Shalt Suffer no longer has anything to do with death metal as Ihsahn has decided to only use the name for his shitty ambient recordings. But the darkness of the past will not soon be forgotten...
Alright, I have already reviewed two EPs earlier today, so I thought it would be nice to round it off with a third one. And for this I have picked a particularly beautiful gem, of the hopefully well-known Thou Shalt Suffer, one of these bands that kicked off the big explosion of the Norwegian Metal scene, preceeding the legendary Emperor and the controversial but widely respected Ildjarn.
Thou Shalt Suffer, to put it as simple as possible, play atmospheric Death Metal - old school type of material spiced up with nocturnal keyboard work. Not to be misleading however, because this band is most certainly one of a kind. And its not the theory that distinguishes them from the rest of the atmospheric Death Metal world of their time, it cannot be pinpointed down to their type of riffing, or the scales their melodies progress through, but the practice, the feeling that comes across with the music. There is something to be said for the beauty with which this release progresses from march-like, driving uptempo Death Metal through encapsuled keyboard-carried maelstroms of atmospheric darkness, and back to building up an emotional climax starting with a new, rhythm-carrying midtempo part.
Both songs here however work on different plains, because while "Spectral Prophecy" carries through that aforementioned theme of contrasting aggression with nocturnal darkness quite conservatively, "Painful Void of Time" works on a basis a bit more dynamic than that. Here the different elements are more intermingled, more layered over each other, and in their way very captivating, in that they lead you through a unique progression of shifting emotional premises. These two songs in contrast to each other again create a specific feeling about the EP as a whole, giving it a profound sense of completion.
However, as you might have noticed, the score for this album is 85, and not 100, and there are several reasons for this. First of all, a score of 100 would necessarily represent a perfection that the fewest albums can ever reach, and while this one has perfect moments, it just cannot make it all the way. In addition, this is an EP, not an album, and without album length all the perfection in the world cannot change the fact that it does not last long enough to fully take its hold over the mind. And of course - and despite aforementioned profound sense of completion - there are (very few, but they are there) moments here in which the young age of the composers shines through, leaving the feeling of something inchoate, embryonic, and without the serenity of experience necessary to stand unaffected above all else. All in all this, as I said, boils down to a rating of 85%, still very high, and without a doubt fully deserved.