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Thorns:Thorns - 95%

filthgrinding_scum, November 12th, 2012

Carrying on with my reviews for best black metal debuts ever (Ascension's 'Consolamentum' & Ved Buens Ende's 'Written in Waters'). I would like to catechise about Thorns.

Thorns is the sole project of Snorre Ruch; a band lots of people know of, normally more due to the hassle that Snorre Ruch got himself in when he accompanied Varg on the night he slayed Euronymous, then helped him dispose of Varg's bloody clothes and all that fun stuff. Well, after coming out of jail Snorre was knocking around with some riffs, meeting up with old friends and Satyr (at the time running Moonfog who were putting out some of the best Norwegian black releases) convinced Snorre to record them, Satyr pulled in the help of some famous friends: Hellhammer, Aldrahn from DHG and himself to do vocals and made an absolutely stunning album, thank you Satyr for convincing Snorre to release this as this album as it is revolutionary for black metal and industrial black.

Thorns are an industrial black metal outfit, yet unlike the majority of industrial bands there is minimal electronic influence, only occasionally can synths be noticed through the release (most significantly on the ambient 'Beneath the Universe Part I). The album is a razor sharp organic affair, the guitar-tone is lifted straight from Satyricon's 'Rebel Extravaganza', unsurprising as Satyr produced the Thorns album, anyone familiar with 'Rebel Ex' should know how cutting and destructive the guitar tone is, devoid of all warmth, just pure scathing distortion. The guitars are tight, restrained and razor sharp. Snorre's style of playing is highly original, and it is he that is credited, along with Euronymous for typifying the black metal style of riff (why he was hired to play second guitar for them and he's spoken of as progenitor of a few riffs on De Mysteriis), utilising higher strings, tremolo riffs and stranger chord progressions, instead of standard power chords. However Snorre's compositions are very strange, vast amounts of dissonance and bizarre notes are utilised to tremendous effect showing a clarity and maturity since the infamous' Grymyrk' demo a decade previous. Hellhammer's drumming is probably the fastest that he has ever achieved, the pedals that open up 'Existence' (the opener to the album) are absolutely blistering. Vocal duties on the album switch between Aldrahn & Satyr, with the latter giving his best vocal performance by miles; clear, highly distorted and with a colossal degree of control, the gurns that he offers up on 'World Playground Deceit' are something that you would never expect to hear Satyr proffer, additionally the screams he lets loose at the start of 'Interface to God' are expelled with a fervour bordering on evangelical zeal.

There is little variation in the song styles, with each being a methodical, visceral ride. The album is highly mechanical sounding, yet based almost solely on organic instruments, which is something that is an insurmountable feat. The album is testament to the power of composition and production, the fact that this album sounds more industrial than the majority of industrial black metal releases is stupefying, honestly. Surprisingly as well, the release manages to sound 'spacey' and 'futuristic', normally cliché terms that are bandied about to little affect; Thorns manage to achieve an ethereal yet mechanical sound, far removed from humanity and our simple meanderings.

Unfortunately there has been only one release so far, an E.P. where they covered Emperor songs (Thorns vs. Emperor - each band covering the others older songs, a project where Snorre's friends tried to introduce people to Thorns again and give them credibility in a scene becoming burdened by second-rate bands), additionally they have recently released some of their older material which by comparison to Thorns' 'Thorns' pales in comparison, yet it is noteworthy for seeing the establishment of black metal in its infancy. A follow-up has been in talks but regrettably has been in development hell for years now.

Thorns should be experienced by anyone interested in black metal, to see where it came from and how one of the earliest musical influences in the Norwegian scene has progressed, tracks such as 'Stellar Master Elite' & 'Existence' will likely be the most accessible to the metal masses, whilst awesome, songs such as 'World Playground Deceit' and 'Vortex' are where the weirdness starts to shine through with epic results.

An album of pure excellence, truly worthy of the title: Stellar Master Elite.

(Originally written for