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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.