without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Even though recent years have seen them reaching broader audiences, URGEHAL have never seemed to slow down or compromise their brand of Black Metal. Their latest blasphemous incantation shows no sign of changing this tendency, even though it sees the band showing a certain progression. The ever-prolific Trondr Nefas and Enzifer have returned to smash the trendies with a ghostly pale bloody fist.
Fans of the band will recognize the Death and Thrash Metal influences that URGEHAL incorporate. Crushing many of their contemporaries in terms of songwriting and musicianship, this is about as tight-sounding a Black Metal band can get without becoming too refined. Some break-neck speed has been given up in favor of punishing groovy bass-lines, courtesy of Mannevond (KOLDBRANN). Nefas' vocals are raw and gritty, yet somewhat decipherable, giving credit to the standard eviler-than-thou lyrics. Add some excellent riffs and guitar solos, devastating skin-pummeling, and you've got the best that Black Metal has to offer. Of course, the combined musical effort wouldn't mean anything if the instruments all mended together in a distorted mess, and fortunately the production keeps a perfect balance between necro and polished.
It's always a pleasure to see that some bands stick to their guns and hold the flag up high. "Ikonoklast" takes URGEHAL from the realm of good metal, and exalts them to the ranks of the greats. If you thought Norwegian Black Metal was a dead horse, it's time to grab your boomstick– this zombie is as animated as ever.
(Online March 27, 2010)
Written for the Metal Observer
Urgehal has never been one of my favorite Norse black metal bands, but much of their discography is reliable if you're in the market for some blasting hostility. Ikonoklast is their sixth album and suitable for fans who want a little grisly death injection into the momentum of the thundering black metal holocaust. The band specializes in very thick, simplistic guitar rhythms with an influence of Mayhem or Celtic Frost/Hellhammer, but the real star of this show would be the vocals of Trondr. He knows how to put just the proper amount of reverb on them so that they cast an eerie spell over the blasting undercurrent, and honestly, if it were not for this one aspect, the remainder of the music would feel like mundane energy of ill intent.
"Stesolid Self-Destruction To Damnation" coronates the album with a sweet sample from the 30 Days of Night film adaptation, before some broiling leadwork and the ever churning tempo of the guitar rhythms. I liked the way the bass morphed below the riff at around 1:00, but otherwise this is a come and go song without a great many enduring moments. "Dødelagt" fares a lot better, because it sounds liked a goddamned tank escaped Apocalyptic Raids somehow and wound up rolling over this band's jamspace. "Cut Their Tongue Shut Their Prayer" is much faster than the first two tracks, and develops a nice evil trill to the verse rhythm and some excellent vocals. "The Necessity of Total Genocide" takes the band in the opposite direction, to a slower, evil segment of frightening chords that rocks up to a mid paced level. The bass in "Kniven Rider Dypt I Natt" is pumping, and the track feels like it has a good hardcore injection. Other notable cuts include the vile "Astral Projection to Rabid Hell" and the utter blitkrieg that is "Holocaust in Utopia".
Ikonoklast sounds as cavernous as a war-torn black and white city covered in dark, broiling smog. It's crushing and heavy and does not give a fuck, the way most black metal albums of this variety best operate. Most of the memorable moments are created through the atmosphere and vocals rather than any excessive skill at riffing, but there are a few which do dominate. I cannot say it's the most compelling or blasphemous work I've heard of late, but it is at least solid, and in some places, truly grim. Definitely one for the fans of louder, caustic black metal which can peel the paint off brick and mortar in the name of nihilistic fucking warfare.
Highlihgts: Dødelagt, Cut Their Tongue Shut Their Prayer, Kniven Rider Dypt I Natt
Urgehal has always amazed me, and to me is one of the last good Black Metal bands. With the release of Ikonoklast, they still show that, if not multiply that feeling. Everything seems to be in place. What I did like about Ikonoklast was that it followed a new music formula, with less blast beats, and more focusing on black/death oriented guitars. Vocally, the album is lacking, but I think that it fits for the new sound they acquired.
The Drums to Ikonoklast seem to be a lot more about keeping rhythm then actually making a blasty mess. Some songs do have a lot of blast beats, like Dodelagt, but most seem to be less blast oriented, and more focused on actual drum techniques, especially the double roll fill.
Guitar wise, the album is phenomenal, and the instrumental parts show that Urgehal has lost nothing when it comes to Black Metal. Most of the riffs are power chord oriented or alternate picking simplistic black metal style riffs. Solos in the album are amazing, more technical then Urgehal has ever been, and I have to say it impressed me a lot, especially after hearing the new Gwar, and being disappointed with the soloing techniques. Though the album has been out for a total of 2 hours as I post this, I can say, it was a great find. Yes, I downloaded it like the pirate I am, but with the lack of money and patience for online delivery, it was my only choice.
The Artwork is pretty simplistic, but effective. It is a stone-esque figure standing with his arms raised, whilst a black cloud storms overhead. A large band logo with "Ikonoklast" written underneath it, go between the man's arms. I actually really liked the art, as compared to (yet again) Gwar, who's new album art was just retarded.
I'm sure everyone remembers the launch of Goatcraft Torment back in 2006. Up until that time, Urgehal has been a quality band residing in the underground, mostly known to the devotees of the genre. But with Goatcraft Torment they made a breakthrough paving their ways into huge festivals and even a deal with Season Of Mist. They were extremely praised by everyone, from the average it's-all-about-inner-circle Joe, to the kvltfago kiddies. In the light of these happenings diversified opinions about the upcoming Ikonoklast, while some claimed that the band was gonna get into a softer and more commercial sound, others have strictly said that they were going to become even faster with necbreaking blastbeats.
Well, in my opinion both opinios have failed. 1. Urgehal didn't wimp-out. 2. But they didn't turn up the speed that much. Ikonoklast is way different. This time we are subjected to a quite different approach to Black Metal. Here we have much less groovy and thrashy parts, hell, even less blastbeats, more slowed down and oppressing passages and lots of more darkness and gloom. Whereas "Stesolid Self-destruction to Damnation" starst off with a blasting guitar solo galore, tracks like "Holocaust in Utopia" and "Sopor Necrosanctus" drowns the listener in an overwhelmingly humid and suffocating ambiance of darkness and desolation. I can easily say that this is the darkest, most sinister Urgehal release to date. It's mostly not like the previous records where it was purely about aggression and pace, this album has a lot more to show up, and believe me, you have not faced such a blackened album since De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.
The song writing is simply perfect: Extremely dark and hellish riffing that sends shivers down the listener's spine, superb guitar solos that you can't get out of your head and which will haunt you even during your sleep, INSANE drumming which alternates between godless blasting and more slower/midtempo parts with great cymbal plays. It's a good thing that Uruz decided to record the drums for this album, his presence is really felt. Just look at the final moments of "Astral Projection to Rabid Hell", and you'll know what I mean. Last but not least, we have this extremely hate-filled, poison-spitting voice of Nefas... DAMN !!! Nefas has always been a good vocalist, but this time his delivery of satanic destruction is well beyond his previous efforts. It's been a long time since I've come accross such wicked vokills. Top ace impersonation of demons that dwell in sulphurous depths of hell. Great effort!
All in all, this is the most mature, varied and well-executed Urgehal album ever. Ok, it's not the fastest and maybe not the most aggressive one, but it's still able to crush the 95% of the Black Metal ever created, and has such a hellish atmosphere that you'll shit in your pants when you're at it. It's also a pretty interesting surprise for the fans, I'm pretty sure that nobody was expecting something like this. If you're into Urgehal because it''s thrashyness, than stick back to Goatcraft Torment, for Ikonoklast has almost no room for that kind of groove. It's pure, sickening, hateful and malignant Black Metal with no compromises.