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I heard about these guys through a friend of mine, and decided to check them out, because he said they have solos in their songs. So I did, and it was an enjoyable listen.
Urgehal embody the cheesiness of Black Metal as whole; they have the whole "corpse-paint" and "spikes, studs and nails" thing going on. However, the music is quite good. Don't let their silly looks fool you. There's nothing special here, just straight forward Black/Thrash.
There are some really nice riffs in here, mostly tremolo, but they are delivered with great efficiency, and they don't drag on and on like most Black Metal tremolo riffing (in other words, quick). The interesting thing here is that Urgehal bother putting solos (check out "Satanic Black Metal In Hell" for a total shred fest) in their music, and I find it great. This is usually unethical for a Black Metal band, but obviously these guys focus more on the Thrash. Something that made me very happy was that I could hear the bass on this album. You can hear the bass clearly behind the guitars. I'm not gonna go on about the bass, but it is enjoyable being able to listen to the entire mix clearly. The drums usually gallop through Thrash rhythms/sections, or they blast during tremolo riffs and solos. The vocals are obviously that rasped, high-pitched scream, and are very generic and typical.
Overall, the production is great, it has a somewhat metallic sound, but it's very crisp and clear. I'd recommend this to someone who wishes to get into Black/Thrash or just someone who wants an enjoyable listen. Not a mandatory buy.
Highlights: Goatcraft Torment (title track), Risus Sardomus, Antireligios, Satanic Black Metal In Hell.
Many critics view Urgehal as a bunch of misogynist/sadomaschistic, violent adolescents who in order to gain some attention went to the great extremes of forming a "kvlt" band whose image (and music?) would shock the boots from under many folks' feet. And while their lyrical themes do in fact revolve around such abhorrent symbolism, the truth is far from that. To merely view Urgehal's members as copycats or "scene" kids hounding the cliche is more of an underestimation. This demonic alliance existed ever since Trondr Nefas and Enzifer formulated it back in 1992 during the Nordic wake to the Satanic way of life. This band was amongst the early beacons that predated the rapid proliferation of similar Norwegian Black Metal bands who spent more time going on church-burning/grave-digging sprees than inside the studio recording metal.
But it's easy to see why some critics would make such a mistake about Urgehal. After all, for a band such as Urgehal - formed in 1992, with a record of two demos and five LPs - to remain in the underground, the lack of sheer musical talent may be the only explanation. Only it's not. Simply because the true sound of Norwegian Black Metal can still only be heard from the dark pits of the underground. Staying in the shadows of the underground enforces the anti-social and misanthropic behaviour upon which the idiom of Black Metal was based. This is much like a Vampire chosing to stay hidden in darkness for the sake of not getting burnt by the rays of sunlight. Even with a 2006 release such as "Goatcraft Torment", one would think that Urgehal may be finally ready to surface to advertise their music to the general public (i.e most Black Metal fans). But make no mistake, the sounds emerging from "Goatcraft Torment" are so raw and uncompromising that even most Dimmu Borgir fans would shy away from it.
Nefas opens up the album by abruptly blurting: "This is Satanic Black Metal!" in such a raspy voice that would instantly remind the listener of the similar manner in which Taake's Ulvhedin Høst used to open up Hordaland Doedskvad by screeching "Helnorsk Svartmetall" (meaning True Norwegian Black Metal) and even of the manner Satyr used to open up Satyricon's masterpiece "Nemesis Divina" by howling "This is Armageddon" which sent freezing shockwaves down the spine no matter how many time you listened to it. And in this manner not only does Nefas warn that the musical compositions that the listener is about to experience are not for the faint-hearted but also affirms the vintage rawness contained within his vocals which most experienced Black Metal listeners would find attractive.
Urgehal follows the simplistic approach of artistic minimalism when it comes to their songwriting. With a Black Metal scene that's overwhelmed with experimentation surrounding them, Urgehal decided to strip down their music by following a sure-fire formula to a successful album. It's true that the fan-base for such a style of Black Metal is now almost extinct, but who said Urgehal are after album sales or zine glory? Over the span of 10 tracks (with a hefty play-time of 51 minutes), Urgehal play their instruments with such relentless speed and force that even those instruments ended up being sodomized objects to their demonic touch. The overall tempo is fast-paced but Urgehal always inserts a mid-tempo, thrashy intermezzo, lending the listener just enough time to breathe after having been sunk into a pool of vicious hatred. This is a clever aspect in their song-writing because it makes certain songs sound memorable without any compromise to their intensity. Also Urgehal employs guitar solos which few other Norwegian Black Metal bands seem to ever incorprate into their song-writing. Perhaps the riffs on "Goatcraft Torment" aren't the most original, yet they are executed with utmost talent, exhibiting brilliant musicianship. All the songs are derived by strong, dark emotions which are surely hard to replicate from any other source. It's true that some songs suffer from long riff structures that can get a little tiresome but this can be a minor setback depending on your preference.
The production of "Goatcraft Torment" is truly crisp and the mixing premium. It seems that Agonia Records' really did a great job this time. Somehow the listener is able to identify the source of each note no matter whether it's playing in the background or foreground. And inspite of such clean production, the recording still sounds as raw and malefic as any good Black Metal album should. Even Torgersbråten's bass is clearly audible, a feat which would've been technically impossible to achieve a decade earlier.
The lyrical theme for "Goatcraft Torment" is about praising all forms of iniquity. Most of it revolves around violent sexual desires and sadomasochism. Some disturbing lyrical passages even refer to interest in the torture of children, and while Urgehal are notorious for their lack of lyrical subtlety on their previous albums, the material on "Goatcraft Torment" is the most misanthropic and Satanic to date. As anticipated, the word "Satan" is overused to an extent that would make even Dark Funeral's Magus Caligula a little envious.
Even though this is not Urgehal's best release it's very much recommended to all fans of old school Black Metal that's been deprived from any modern enhancements.
Favored tracks are: "Goatcraft Torment" (title track) , "Risus Sardonius" , "Antireligiøs" , "Dødsmarsj Til Helvete".
Originality ........... 15
Musicianship ....... 19
Songwriting ......... 17
Production .......... 20
Lyrics ................. 10