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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.