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One of the finest Black Metal albums to be created - 99%

Manchester_Devil, August 21st, 2004

My interest in Thorns had begun when I read a Kerrang review (surprise, surprise) that gave this album a very good review (4 or 5 K’s, I can’t remember – I never brought that issue of Kerrang anyway) and I’ve been waiting for my chance to have this album, I borrowed a copy of this album off a mate of mine and it increased my interest in Thorns. I finally brought this album one day in 2003.

Now for the review:

The first full length release from the most mysterious of Norwegian bands by Snorre Ruch and associates of various calibre such as Faust (Emperor), Hellhammer (Mayhem) and Satyr of Satyricon amongst others in the bands long and unknown history, released the (in)famous demo tape, Grymyrk, which many say influenced their music. Snorre himself was (alleged to be) involved in the murder of Euronymus when he was (supposed to be) the driver of the car that took Varg Vikernes to Euronymus’ flat.

Since signing to Moonfog records, Snorre has revived Thorns and has since made a split album with Black Metal legends Emperor and this album. Thorns have a lot of history behind them and does this album live up to history? The answer to this question is yes, this album does rise to the challenge.

The album is Black Metal with splices of Industrial in it, while Aborym’s “With No Human Intervention” Industrial sections are mainly dance based at times and likely to turn people away, Thorns is a more calculated, colder machine of an album with the timed, constant beating of anvils over slow, funeral doom/black riffs in the third song “Shifting Channels” showcasing the industrial side of Thorns while “Interface to God” and “Stellar Master Elite” show the more Black Metal face of the band. Each of the songs has its own individual character, thanks to Snorre’s guitar riffs and use of samples and synths.

The Guitar is downtuned to near distortion, sounding like static though one can hear the riffs underneath the distortion while having an ambient feel. The bass is a shower of static which is created through synths. The drumming is by Hellhammer, who keeps in time with the riffs, provided by Snorre Ruch himself with the two guest vocalists, Satyr and Aldrahn from another Black/Industrial Metal band: Dodheimsgard taking turns as vocalists during the album.

There is also usage of sample and other sounds in each of the songs, Aldrahn’s vocals are goblin-like and rough and Satyr’s are similar yet different. Snorre Ruch sings on the last song, “Vortex”, which is talking over a low male vocal chorus with keyboards and samples every 10 seconds which gives the impression of a god with the power to give and take life. The production of the album is clear but leans towards being raw.

“Existence” starts with fast riffs and timed drum before coming to a stop for a vocal sample before carrying on in a militaristic fashion with sounds like alien creatures buzzing around you before coming to another sample and more riffs which brings the song to a close with more bizarre sounds.

“World Playground Deceit” Begins with slow riffs which brings the listener to the world of grey before speeding up when Satyr takes up the vocals, the riffs are still distinctive despite the amount of distortion, the speed of this song goes from slow to fast.

I covered “Shifting Channels” earlier in this review in some detail while “Stellar Master Elite” is another fast song which starts with swishes of distortion with drumbeats that countdown to the arrival of the guitars, this is the main source of headbanging in this album as it’s probably the thrashiest song (next to “Interface to God”) as it sounds like a mid-pace thrash song before the swishes return briefly before end with a blastbeat with distorted thrash riffs.

“Underneath the Universe” is a song that is over two tracks at 15+ minutes; the first part of this song (Track five) is spacious ambience with militaristic drumming and guitars up to halfway through before going to more spacious ambience. Part two (Track six) follows on before Snorre’s Guitars enter in their glory. Aldrahn and Satyr take turns on this song while the drums stay constant in their beat. There are times where synths and keys arrive in place of the guitars but they provide a break in the riffage while carrying the atmosphere of the song before the riffs return and take turns with the synths before the song closes off with some more synths with militaristic drumming to accompany them.

“Interface to God” is also a song with thrashy riffs form start to finish, this marks of the end of Satyr’s and Aldrahn’s participation in this album with Snorre Ruch himself taking over the vocal role in “Vortex” which starts off with low, quiet synth with a sprinkle of keyboards and sounds with layers of guitars slowly coming into the fold before going bursting into a march of slow to mid-paced riffs and steady drumming before ending on a back of the voice of male voices and the low end of a keyboard.

This is a rollercoaster of Black Metal majesty from a man whose importance to Black metal is more than anyone, even the most observant of observers, can recognise though it isn’t a thrash bar two songs, this is a really an album to travel to a plane of fantasy and the soul of those who create it. Hail Snorre Ruch, an underrated herald of black metal, in my opinion.