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Reaching back to past shadows. - 71%

hells_unicorn, September 23rd, 2011

The conflict is a familiar one, the resulting media circus (at least in the murky world of underground music media) a very cliche one, but the end result of King Ov Hell's battle with Infernus over the name of the former's former band has actually yielded a favorable situation. I count myself among the traditionalist types who liked Gorgoroth better before Ghaal came into the picture, and I'd venture to guess that the resulting eventuality that is Ov Hell is also better served with him being out of the picture. But is this new project, born out of the necessity of realizing a group of songs conceived for the first Ghaal/Ov Hell album under the moniker of God Seed, one capable of matching black blades with the 2nd wave giant that Infernus has brought back into prominence?

The answer is definitely no, but credit should definitely be given for a decent effort in "The Underworld Regime", due in no small part to the company King is keeping on here. Contrary to popular opinion, Shagrath is the obvious choice for a vocalist in a straight up black metal release (in spite of the overdone orchestral pomp heard out of Dimmu Borgir of late), as his sepulchral ravings rest in a comfortable middle ground between a deep, death-like barks common to Nocturno Culto's handiwork, as well as the higher, goblin mutterings of Gorgoroth's earlier front men. In other words, he sounds very similar to Abbath on here, and it is to his credit. The guitar workings of Teloch and Ice Dale are solid, though more geared towards thrashing crunch and atmospheric painting rather than the melodic character of the latter's work on I and Demonaz. But the cheif attraction, the thing that really brings this album together is the forbidding battery of Frost's kit, rivaling Hellhammer in his fury, yet restrained enough to come off as precise as a surgeon.

Amid the obvious super band tendencies of this collaboration is a solid, albeit highly predictable album that will please many, but probably overwhelm very few. While definitely not one dimensional and equally suited for the conservative thrash tendencies of the 2nd wave as well as the slower, atmospheric aspects, this album almost uses its adherence to tradition as a crutch. When hearing both the blasting brevity of "Perpetual Night" and the slower frosty grimness of "Ghosting", images immediately spring up of Immortal's heavily popular and often imitated sophomore effort "Pure Holocaust". Similar stories could be told about "Krigsatte Faner", my personal favorite of the many chaotic blasters on here, which could almost have made it onto "Battles In The North" had the drumming been a little less precise. One can't help but wonder how much of an impact Ice Dale had on the overall character of these songs given his associations with both Abbath and Demonaz, but it could just as easily be King's own attraction to the winds of popularity blowing towards the kings of all things grim and frostbitten at work here.

While it might be a little unfair to totally saddle this album with a label like Immortal-lite, that's the first title that comes to mind every time I hear this album. It does all the right things in order to maximize the potential of this template, and even provides a somewhat more keyboard oriented atmosphere, but it doesn't quite rivet down the mighty snow covered mountains the way one would expect of a "Sons Of Northern Darkness" or a "At The Heart Of Winter". Nonetheless, it is refreshing to hear Shagrath's intelligible yet maddening shouts without having to tune out a bombastic symphony orchestra simultaneously, and it's also nice to know that King isn't dwelling on his past association with Gorgoroth musically. This is fit for occasional listening within the general black metal guard, but those who have precious little money to blow will want to go for the seminal Immortal and Gorgoroth albums first.

Leggo my ego - 20%

doomknocker, September 22nd, 2011

In the eyes of all gods in creation, we'll all be judged by the company we keep. This is true when pursuing a career/hobby in music, from main bands to side projects to musical prostitution, and when it comes to "supergroups" or projects in which bigger names from different-yet-similar walks of life come together, it doesn't always mean their combined skills will create something ultimately brilliant (it still happens, though). This is no exception.

I didn't have any real expectations upon hearing Shagrath and King ov Hell had gotten together for an album, and I'll be damned if even THAT didn't prepare me for what was to come...

I wouldn't call this a "supergroup" by any stretch. I wouldn't really consider it musical art. What I WOULD call it is mediocre, bland, vanilla, cardboard...just a whole lotta nothing. It's an interesting change of pace for at least one of these two podium-standing fools, as I wouldn't expect a person of Shagrath's echelon to put his voice to an album of such breathstealing drudgery, but I know that this is exactly the kind of thing his playmate excels at. Seriously...King ov Hell's a talentless hack, there's no two ways about it, and there is nothing he does as a composer and performer that's interesting in the least, from Gorgoroth to this to any other attempts at black metal he'll no doubt undertake, despite his elbow-rubbing with some of his genre-based elders and strutting his stuff like a hanger-on with the cool kids (and subsequently being despised for it). I know I sound harsh, maybe even vengeful, but never in my life have I heard a black metal album so completely devoid of feeling and honesty, a product created purely to BE a product, with nothing to show for it in the end but a superiority complex topped with a contemptable sneer. That's exactly what I get from this album, outside of its already established sense of two-dimensionality.

The problem with being aware of who you are (or rather, who you THINK you are) is that, in the creative field, your output suffers for it. If Kingy-boy actually puts his heart into his music, the chance exists that he'd be able to make something really spectacular. Not this time, though. Between the plodding guitar riffs, the washed out bass, and the pitter-pattery drums, there's nothing here that's not seen betterment by other people, even those not even considered part of his personal coolness crew. And even Shaggy, with his robotic drones and croaks, doesn't do anything to make this whole ordeal easier on the ears (but then again, he's just as guilty of hackery as the King is, so it's more a "tomato, tomahto" thing), leaving multiple sensations of numbing ennui in the form of "Post Modern Sadist", "Perpetual Night" and "Acts of Sin". It's albums like this that doesn't put black metal in a good light (but then again, there are a LOT of other factors in play in that regard), and in this day and age, the genre needs more than a couple of dudes pushing their swelled heads through the door and believing that they're a pair of corpsepainted anti-messiahs.

So in the end, this is not necessary, and something I don't think should've come to existence in the first place. No amount of pandering and nose-thumbing would make ANY album of ANY style work, and the lack of honesty so burgeoning in "The Underworld Regime", which is now becoming the new black in the black metal world, only serves up derision, pointed fingers, and accusatory curses on Pass.

Nothing worth mentioning - 22%

MaDTransilvanian, February 19th, 2010

What do you get when you take the frontman of the world’s most commercial black metal band and put him in the same band with the man whose main distinction if that of having absolutely no integrity whatsoever? The most underwhelming album in the history of the genre, that’s what. Now, unlike some of the more commercialized variations of the genre, this album does have one thing going for it: it undoubtedly is black metal. Sadly, it’s probably the most watered-down and generic attempt at black metal in the history of music, with absolutely no distinguishing features, no points of real interest except the fact that this is the absolute contrary of what Euronymous and the founding fathers of the Norwegian Second Wave had in mind when they started out with their bands two decades ago.

This album did leave me a bit confused initially. From an external point of view (each individual part of the album taken on its own) the content is actually not actively bad, it’s just completely pathetic in its redundancy and forms an unremarkable overall result. First of all, the main problem with this album: the songwriting. King once again proves to the world that he couldn’t write a good album if his life depended on it. It’s simply not original and is completely formulaic, no uniqueness, no “hey this is a great black metal album, refreshing and different, which brings something new to the table”. Such thoughts are absolutely not what go through one’s mind as they listen to this. In fact, The Underworld Regime is, from a structural standpoint, a complete re-take (not to say rip-off, since he wrote both) of Gorgoroth’s Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam. Many of the songs, such as As Of Sin and Kingsatte Faner, are excellent examples of this, as they could’ve fitted perfectly on that album. The exact same guitar tone, the same vocal patterns (which were admittedly designed for God Seed with Gaahl, who, fortunately for us black metal fans, decided to go away) and the same production sound, this album truly is Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam version 2.0. Except that it’s worse, since that album contained, within its relatively boring framework, a certain amount of quality songwriting and freshness, if only because it was the first time someone did it. This is the exact same thing but less adventurous and more pedestrian, almost like King designed each and every riff in order to be sure not to offend anybody at all. Such an approach is sure to kill every single bit of atmosphere that any good black metal album must have.

As hinted above, the music itself is alright in terms of simple quality, for someone who doesn’t look any deeper. There are decent black metal riffs, some of which are actually good (such as the one at the end of Invoker, some of Ghosting’s riffs and a few others which are well hidden among all the pointlessness). Ice Dale’s a good guitarist (and also somebody who seems to join every single one of the scene’s side projects in Norway, kind of like Hellhammer but on guitars), but even he can’t make miracles from poor songwriting, and neither can ex-Gorgoroth man Teloch. That’s actually the frustrating thing with this album: every band member is good at what they do: Frost’s drumming works well when analyzed on its own, but is just another element in a generic whole. Even Shagrath’s vocals, which are usually good if not exactly the very best in the world of black metal, work well and his performance is as good here as with Dimmu Borgir. I’d have liked hearing him vary a bit though, since his transposition of the exact same style is a bit unoriginal and seems like little more than a ploy to attract Dimmu Borgir’s significant fan base, since he repeats his trademark black metal rasp from beginning to end with no real change.

There are no highlights whatsoever on this album except for those few scattered moments when a good riff surfaces. Another distinguishing feature one may want to look for is whichever songs are most like Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam, but that’s about it. This entire project could be a parody: the name, the band pictures, the album cover, the song titles, nothing can actually be taken seriously, or at least, nothing here gives off that feeling of actual, honest black metal which even actively bad bands can usually create. There’s where this album fails the hardest: for all its decent instrumental and vocal work, it ends up being so much less than the sum of its parts. This is the antithesis of real black metal, and while giving it a zero would be dishonest (but tempting) since there is actual musical talent at work here, it’s disgusting because of its unabashed promotion of commercialism in a genre which used to stand against such things. Bands like Dimmu Borgir get away with it because they actually do something which, like it or hate it, is their own style and is somehow unique and their own niche; this is just black metal bastardized so much that it’s barely recognizable, only an empty shell remains of what once was. The whole band image may have been intentional in order for King to create expectations so low that anyone hearing this would be impressed, but people who can appreciate real black metal with heart and talent should be able to see right through this pathetic charade.

The Underworld Regime - 75%

valhom, February 17th, 2010

Here is an album from the forces of Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir) and King ov Hell (ex-Gorgoroth). And with instrumental accompaniment from Teloch and Ice Dale on guitars and Frost on drums. This group came about from the dissolvement of God Seed with Gaahl and King ov Hell after the declared rightful ownership of the Gorgoroth name which Infernus triumphed upon within court sessions.

The 1st track "Devil's Harlot" is my number one favorite track off from the album. It's makes the album start off fast-paced with no remorse. It just drives right through like the nails inserted into Christ himself. There are other song favorites of mine on here but I don't want to drag on all about that here at the moment. This new roughly 37 minute long Black Metal art was a surprise to me when I first heard about the news of the formation of the duo group. Shagrath and King ov Hell. Sort of different to me. But, when they create an album together with the help of other Black Metal music warriors, the outcome is pretty decent. I don't think it's going to be the greatest album of the year in Black Metal or even in the metal genre, in my opinion. But, the album is good and I liked it when I played it all the way through in my spare time.

The guitar riffing sounding sinister as it is, packs a punch from the fiery pits of Hell. But, this album isn't amazingly fantastic. It is its own album and piece of black metal artistic creation. It's not going to like mesmerize and blow you away but it is still pretty good. It's good enough for me to purchase and add to my metal collection. I like these guys and I hope they stick around with this grouping. I see all of them as a great combination together to spread the word of Satan, darkness, and evil. The music sounds similar to recent Gorgoroth albums from 2003 - 2007. Since, King was a member and primary music composer of the very band.

Shagrath does lyrics and that's new for me to hear and listen to. Well, Shagrath got contributions from Silenoz and Sarah Owens. I am always seeing Silenoz while in Dimmu Borgir writing the lyrics mostly. I like King ov Hell's musical compositions a lot. Even when he was with Gorgoroth. Especially on the Gorgoroth albums "Twilight of the Idols" and "Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam". But, I really much prefer the older classic Gorgoroth lineups.

I was excited and interested about this new formulated Black Metal group. When I heard that Shagrath was going to enthrone the duties of handling vocals, I was amazed and dumbfounded. Some songs are slower than others, and then it's the other way around. But, all in all, it was an okay and alright album in the end.

I always liked Shagraths vocals. I liked his vocals from the albums "Death Cult Armageddon" and "In Sorte Diaboli" with Dimmu Borgir. Well, after listening to this album, I have gained some knowledge of what Ov Hell is all about and since it was musically composed by King ov Hell, it still reminds me of the last two Gorgoroth albums with Gaahl and King within the lineup. This is mainly King ov Hell's black metal group and he now has his own chance to create something as he always has been but still uniquely different all in all.

Thank you for reading my review and if you like what you hear what you can find of this band on their MySpace or YouTube videos, then purchase it. If you like the music material you hear and would like to put it on your mp3 player or whatever, buy it. I don't believe in downloading music for free. Be true to the music you listen to and support.

- Cody Shull (Lincoln, Illinois)

Hits like a delayed blast fireball - 70%

autothrall, February 11th, 2010

We've all heard the drama by now over the Gorgoroth name dispute and the subsequent split of the band, with King ov Hell and Gaahl moving over to form God Seed, and Infernus (winner of the court case) continuing on under the original band name. We've all seen the shit flung about the internet and YouTube and whatever place the kids with nothing better to do are hanging out these days. And now, the smoke has cleared. God Seed is no more, Gaahl has retired from metal music (we'll see about that) and King ov Hell has formed a new project with Dimmu Borgir's frontman Shagrath, which incorporates most of the music written for God Seed, but with Shagrath's lyrics.

Congratulations, we've all graduated with our scene degrees, for a scene that has nothing to do with us. To quote a little of the HackMaster, "Let the dice fall where they may", and the result of this roll is a straightforward black metal effort which, while not about to turn any heads for its nuance, is a solid interpretation of the skills and credits of its makers. You won't hear any of Dimmu Borgir's flighty orchestral maneuvers on this album, it's a grimy burst of pure, twisted flesh that manages no gimmicks above a little flange to Shagrath's voice, and the man sounds just as diabolical here (moreso) as anything he's recorded with that other band. That isn't to say that The Underworld Regime lacks atmosphere. On the contrary, there are some synths burgeoning off into the depths, beneath the ripping, full-bodied tone of the dual axe work, and this is successful enough in tracks such as the opener "Devil's Harlot" or the swollen, hostile miasma that is "Invoker".

Of course, the studio lineup doesn't just end with these two. Frost of Satyricon and 1349 fame handles the drumming on the album, a solid if not impressive platter of footwork and writhing, functional beats which feel good and raw against the momentum of the guitars. Teloch of Nidingr (also live with 1349) and Ice Dale (Enslaved) make for a fine compliment to King's anti-tank basslines, thick as thieves but still sharp enought to slice sandwich meats. Together, this Faustian fivesome wrangle their way through 8 tracks in about 37 minutes of nigh memorable riffing and an overall atmosphere far stronger than its constituent pieces. The album's got its blasting blowbys here like "Invoker", "Acts of Sin" and "Krigsatte Faner", but to be honest I greatly preferred the moments where the band slowed the pace to let the sinister tones scorch their way into your cranial cavity. I am thinking of the twisted panoramic "Ghosting" or the chaotic carousel of black/thrash that is "Perpetual Night". The closing track "Hill Norge" is also noteworthy for its serpentine, clenching rhythm. Stylewise, the writing mirrors everything from their alma mater bands (Gorgoroth and older Dimmu Borgir) to a dash of Immortal in the shining, arching melodies that seem to inadvertently erupt from the guitar chords.

The Underworld Regime is not about to blow anyone away, and its members have all been a part of something greater in the past, but it DOES provide a solid banner under which King ov Hell can regroup, gathering his soldiers for the next live attack. Shagrath has a lot more presence here than one might expect, due to the fact that the glaring, signature symphonic wall of his other band is simply not found here. The tracks all flow from one to the next without much deviation, and the fires ov Hell remain strong with these two. It should be interesting to see the reaction at large to this band, and the inevitable comparisons to the latest Gorgoroth album.

Highlights: Invoker, Perpetual Night, Ghosting, Hill Norge