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Great contribution to the genre. - 92%

ImpureSoul, December 16th, 2012

In the early 90s when Varg Vikernes of Norwegian black metal band Burzum stabbed and murdered Euronymous, Varg’s driver, Snorre Ruch, was arrested and put in jail for eight years. This detour to prison pushed Snorre Ruch and his band Thorns into almost total obscurity for all this time, and even though Thorns was among the first handful of true Norwegian black metal bands (first forming in 1989, before Darkthrone had even released Soulside Journey), very few now know of him or his band. After release from prison in 2000 he was encouraged by fellow black-metalheads to write more music for Thorns. What resulted was a phenomenal black metal album full of pent-up aggression and ice-cold, piercing riffs that would have put Darkthrone to shame had any of it been put to record in black metal’s glory days.
Unlike Varg Vikernes’ apparent desire to isolate himself from other musicians, Snorre seemed interested in collaborating with other icons of black metal. Satyr, Hellhammer and Aldrahn all got together to help record vocals and drums, offering a good variety of screams, growls, snarls, and distorted whispers.

I waited too long to really explore this band. Everything on here is absolutely phenomenal. The intensity in the first minute of the first track Existence will blow you out of your seat. The guitars have been recorded without any trace of warmth or resonance—the riffs they produce are wild, strange, and they’re fiercely freezing. Hellhammer’s machine-gun drumming is some of the fastest I’ve ever heard him pull off, and it’s varied to boot. The guitars plays wicked, weird black metal riffs, full of melody without ever letting up aggression. And though the album has a decidedly industrial tone, the synths are well-placed, used just enough to unsettle the listener, but they never consumer the music or sound contrived. The only time they really come to the forefront is during the closing track and the first part of Underneath the Universe, but even when they’re absent the electronic atmosphere is sensed through the sound of the guitar buzz.

The vocals are pretty varied and great as far as black metal goes. Despite every song switching between Aldrahn and Satyr on vocal duties, I think the two work cohesively with each other. Both of them are top-notch and perform greatly to keep the music creepy. Even though the vocals are often electronically distorted, it’s always far from being overdone just because it fits so well with the vocals. I almost feel like the album was produced with these vocals in mind, because in the landscape of buzzing and screeching, the voices of Satyr and Aldrahn are almost like instruments on their own. Though I personally way prefer Aldrahn’s voice to Satyr’s, they’re both great. I almost never mention lyrics, but the lyrics here are very interesting to pay attention to. They only further emphasize the atmosphere with their songs about of malicious deities and misanthropy.

Thrones does not strive for the typical black metal, and Snorre does not seem interested in regurgitating standard black metal formula. He tweaks and shifts without coming off as pretentious. There are no atmospheres of wide-open-nature or forests in winter—the landscapes have been contaminated and polluted, and their waters have been poisoned. With rapid tremolo riffs stabbing through blankets of distortion at seemingly haphazard moments with bizarre melodic patterns, everything in the album feels twisted and gnarled. Even with the cold, tinny guitars, everything sounds quite wide-open and deep, like a voyage through space, path lit only by distant galaxies and nebulas. There’s enough variation throughout the album to keep the listener fully interested, especially after the first few listens to the album. Any black metalhead into pure, raw, speedy tremolo riffs will find a lot of great stuff here, namely in the songs Existence and Stellar Master Elite. Anyone into a more doom-oriented sludgy approach or an industrial soundscape would be into Underneath the Universe II and Shifting Channels. There’s enough of a good blend of tone in the longer songs to satisfy, and, though the placement is a little strange on the album, there’s a really good synth-structured track that adds a lot of depth and neatly divides the album and the music on it.

The album’s full of a lot of great, unique black metal that should make early 90s black metal fanatics fall in love. There are plenty of great memorable moments, awesome riffs, great interludes, and good vocals. Thorn’s self-titled is proof that black metal is not dead—the good stuff is out there if you look for it. Though the album may seem a little soulless on the first few listens, it has great growing power. The cold industrial tone is pulled off very well, and the odd structure and flow of the songs works well with that, even though it may seem a little alien at first. If you consider yourself any kind of black metal fan, you’ll definitely love this album after a few tries. It’s hard for me to settle on a favourite track on the album because I think every song, including the halfway point instrumental, carries its own weight.If any song is better than any of the others, it’s only barely.

Originally posted on http://www.spirit-of-metal.com/