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Lucifer's kingdom? Wotan's is more like it. - 84%

hells_unicorn, October 11th, 2011

It has been speculated by some that black and death metal, particularly the melodic strains that began cropping up in Norway and Sweden, are all but joined at the hip with each other. There is definitely something to be said for the similarities between latter day Dimmu Borgir and a handful of Finnish and Swedish bands that took some influences from the Gothenburg scene, but there was always a very noticeable aesthetic contrast. The best way to sum it up would be that while the melodic death metal style is often dark and cold, black metal is forever suspended in a frozen, night-ridden wasteland comparable to the surface of a dead planet. Nevertheless, the commonality that exists is definitely open to hybrid ventures, and as far back as the beginnings of the Gothenburg scene and the 2nd wave of black metal, Dissection was there to offer up a middle ground between the two.

While it is grossly unfair to dismiss the recent Bavarian outfit Thulcandra as a Dissection knockoff, at least anymore than it would be to denounce Saint Vitus as a Black Sabbath clone, it is very obvious the affinity that these Germans share with their Swedish forefathers. The auspicious cover of the title song of said black/death pioneers debut album “The Somberlain” being included at the tail end of this fine album seems more as the final icing on what is a beautifully depressive and frostbitten cake. The melding of these styles manifests itself primarily in a vocal sound that tends to resemble the agonized screams of At The Gates, while the riff set is a methodical reinterpretation of death metal infused black metal albums heard out of early 2000s Immortal, though with an even more thrash oriented edge out of the drum work of session member Seraph (better known for his work with Dark Fortress).

For all the undertones of darkness and evil, there is a slight hint of Nordic heroism and warfare to be found within the music that bears some similarity to Viking era Bathory, or perhaps even recent works heard out of Demonaz’s various non-Immortal projects. This is particularly noteworthy when acoustic guitars are employed, such as the serene yet looming landscapes painted at the intro of “Frozen Kingdom” and the somewhat darker and haunting one of “Spirit Of The Night”. But even the straight up blizzards with riffs blazing away as heard in “Fallen Angel’s Dominion” and “Night Eternal” have this air of an epic struggle between two mighty armies and oceans of blood being spilled upon the permafrost. All the while, the technique of all in congress proves near impeccable as the nebulousness of the 2nd wave is absent and a more thrash-like rhythmic precession stands in its place.

Yes, this sort of album has been heard before, but it definitely should be heard again, many times. While Thulcandra is not wholly wanting in originality, their influences are worn quite proudly on their gauntlets, and the name of their game is quality over experimentation. It is not quite the revolutionary fit of brilliance that Dissection’s early works were, but it holds a pretty massive candle to them, and dwarfs the more recent offerings of said band. Pretty much anyone who finds the combination of archaic early 90s frosty blackened pictures with a somewhat crisper production quality more often attributed to “Sons Of Northern Darkness” appealing should check this out, along with the recently released follow up that further cement where this band stands.