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Born too late - 88%

Felix 1666, November 3rd, 2017

The Norwegian black metal campaign against Christianity was the most exciting development in terms of extreme metal during the nineties. To be more precise, it was the only exciting development. Apart from these pitiful surrounding circumstances, the hordes from the top of Europe spread their violent, sometimes criminal message around the entire globe. Urgehal from Hønefoss released their first full-length relatively late, but they have proven that they are able to preserve the spirit of the nineties.

Their full-length from 2006, the here presented "Goatcraft Torment", makes no secret of this fact, to express it carefully. The album is nothing less than a journey back to the starting point of the Norwegian war against the establishment, not in terms of amateurish awkwardness, but with regard to the chosen style. Symphonic orchestras, keyboards or acoustic guitars, "beautiful" female voices - all these things do not have a place here. Without making any kind of lukewarm compromises, Urgehal search for the essence of the genre and they do it successfully. Their very dense, shady and strict way of proceeding creates a totalitarian regime where no song is allowed to develop its own identity. Room for personal liberties is not given, all tunes have to march in step. To avoid misunderstandings, this is a very good way - and perhaps even the only one - to keep in touch with the essence of black metal. This applies all the more with regard to the high quality of the material. The misanthropic horde tyrannizes the audience with malignant, sharp riffs, fierce leads and mostly fast-paced drumming. Especially the guitar work embraces the listener forcibly. It does not only offer a high degree of grimness, it also contributes an adequate level of diversity and the necessary modicum of melodies. Hand in hand with the intelligently integrated tempo changes, the guitars generate dynamic tracks that have never heard of the European Convention of Human Rights and comparable, absolutely nonsensical bullshit. Instead, they rush forward without even thinking about the devastation that they cause.

Each and every piece makes a strong contribution to the album with the effect that a monolithic overall impression is emerging. Stubbornness is a value in this context and believe me, Urgehal are not interested in being open for other people's point of view. Ultra-heavy and very black harmonies liaise with the relentless, in rare cases nearly hectic drumming. This alliance is responsible for the fact that the lead vocals do not characterize the album. They did not fall by the wayside during the recordings, but the guitars dominate this 51 minutes of painful consequence. Therefore, the genre-typical vocals, obviously contributed by a probably ugly gnome, score with their raw and vicious performance, but they do not make the record to something special. However, "Goatcraft Torment" possesses other qualities. Especially the compositional class of the Norwegians is remarkable and ensures that the album is filled to the brim with evil-minded highlights. I would like to mention "Gathered Under the Horns" with its dissonant beginning and the pretty hymnal leads at the end of "Risus Sardonicus", which combines levelling mid-tempo leads with more furious, partly blast beats driven sections, at this point.

But once again, I must say that there are no significant quality differences between the individual songs. "Antireligios" is wildly galloping over Norway's darkest landscapes, while the martial "Dødsmarsj til Helvete" impresses with its desperate mid-tempo approach (but a short outbreak of velocity is also included). "Selvmordssalme" scores with explosive sections and a gloomy break, too. Well, every song should be mentioned, but let's say it more generally: all of them are imbued with hatred, negativity and total bitterness (and feel free to add comparable attributes, they will all fit.) The band does not shy way from stereotypes, but do not expect any kind of naivety when it comes to song titles such as "Satanic Black Metal in Hell". Urgehal kill with both precision and vehemence and they spit in every face they see. What a shame that "Goatcraft Torment" was released too late. If it would have seen the light of day in the early nineties, we probably would call this work a true classic of Norwegian black metal. Highly recommended for fans of "Pure Holocaust" and "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas". Less recommended for fans of... well, I don't want to mention shitty formations at this point. This would be unfair to In Flames, HammerFall or Manowar.

Enjoyable Black/Thrash... - 83%

MorturomDemonto, October 6th, 2007

I heard about these guys through a friend of mine, and decided to check them out, because he said they have solos in their songs. So I did, and it was an enjoyable listen.

Urgehal embody the cheesiness of Black Metal as whole; they have the whole "corpse-paint" and "spikes, studs and nails" thing going on. However, the music is quite good. Don't let their silly looks fool you. There's nothing special here, just straight forward Black/Thrash.

There are some really nice riffs in here, mostly tremolo, but they are delivered with great efficiency, and they don't drag on and on like most Black Metal tremolo riffing (in other words, quick). The interesting thing here is that Urgehal bother putting solos (check out "Satanic Black Metal In Hell" for a total shred fest) in their music, and I find it great. This is usually unethical for a Black Metal band, but obviously these guys focus more on the Thrash. Something that made me very happy was that I could hear the bass on this album. You can hear the bass clearly behind the guitars. I'm not gonna go on about the bass, but it is enjoyable being able to listen to the entire mix clearly. The drums usually gallop through Thrash rhythms/sections, or they blast during tremolo riffs and solos. The vocals are obviously that rasped, high-pitched scream, and are very generic and typical.

Overall, the production is great, it has a somewhat metallic sound, but it's very crisp and clear. I'd recommend this to someone who wishes to get into Black/Thrash or just someone who wants an enjoyable listen. Not a mandatory buy.

Highlights: Goatcraft Torment (title track), Risus Sardomus, Antireligios, Satanic Black Metal In Hell.

This Is Satanic Black Metal - 81%

Str8Hate, November 18th, 2006

Many critics view Urgehal as a bunch of misogynist/sadomaschistic, violent adolescents who in order to gain some attention went to the great extremes of forming a "kvlt" band whose image (and music?) would shock the boots from under many folks' feet. And while their lyrical themes do in fact revolve around such abhorrent symbolism, the truth is far from that. To merely view Urgehal's members as copycats or "scene" kids hounding the cliche is more of an underestimation. This demonic alliance existed ever since Trondr Nefas and Enzifer formulated it back in 1992 during the Nordic wake to the Satanic way of life. This band was amongst the early beacons that predated the rapid proliferation of similar Norwegian Black Metal bands who spent more time going on church-burning/grave-digging sprees than inside the studio recording metal.

But it's easy to see why some critics would make such a mistake about Urgehal. After all, for a band such as Urgehal - formed in 1992, with a record of two demos and five LPs - to remain in the underground, the lack of sheer musical talent may be the only explanation. Only it's not. Simply because the true sound of Norwegian Black Metal can still only be heard from the dark pits of the underground. Staying in the shadows of the underground enforces the anti-social and misanthropic behaviour upon which the idiom of Black Metal was based. This is much like a Vampire chosing to stay hidden in darkness for the sake of not getting burnt by the rays of sunlight. Even with a 2006 release such as "Goatcraft Torment", one would think that Urgehal may be finally ready to surface to advertise their music to the general public (i.e most Black Metal fans). But make no mistake, the sounds emerging from "Goatcraft Torment" are so raw and uncompromising that even most Dimmu Borgir fans would shy away from it.

Nefas opens up the album by abruptly blurting: "This is Satanic Black Metal!" in such a raspy voice that would instantly remind the listener of the similar manner in which Taake's Ulvhedin Høst used to open up Hordaland Doedskvad by screeching "Helnorsk Svartmetall" (meaning True Norwegian Black Metal) and even of the manner Satyr used to open up Satyricon's masterpiece "Nemesis Divina" by howling "This is Armageddon" which sent freezing shockwaves down the spine no matter how many time you listened to it. And in this manner not only does Nefas warn that the musical compositions that the listener is about to experience are not for the faint-hearted but also affirms the vintage rawness contained within his vocals which most experienced Black Metal listeners would find attractive.

Urgehal follows the simplistic approach of artistic minimalism when it comes to their songwriting. With a Black Metal scene that's overwhelmed with experimentation surrounding them, Urgehal decided to strip down their music by following a sure-fire formula to a successful album. It's true that the fan-base for such a style of Black Metal is now almost extinct, but who said Urgehal are after album sales or zine glory? Over the span of 10 tracks (with a hefty play-time of 51 minutes), Urgehal play their instruments with such relentless speed and force that even those instruments ended up being sodomized objects to their demonic touch. The overall tempo is fast-paced but Urgehal always inserts a mid-tempo, thrashy intermezzo, lending the listener just enough time to breathe after having been sunk into a pool of vicious hatred. This is a clever aspect in their song-writing because it makes certain songs sound memorable without any compromise to their intensity. Also Urgehal employs guitar solos which few other Norwegian Black Metal bands seem to ever incorprate into their song-writing. Perhaps the riffs on "Goatcraft Torment" aren't the most original, yet they are executed with utmost talent, exhibiting brilliant musicianship. All the songs are derived by strong, dark emotions which are surely hard to replicate from any other source. It's true that some songs suffer from long riff structures that can get a little tiresome but this can be a minor setback depending on your preference.

The production of "Goatcraft Torment" is truly crisp and the mixing premium. It seems that Agonia Records' really did a great job this time. Somehow the listener is able to identify the source of each note no matter whether it's playing in the background or foreground. And inspite of such clean production, the recording still sounds as raw and malefic as any good Black Metal album should. Even Torgersbråten's bass is clearly audible, a feat which would've been technically impossible to achieve a decade earlier.

The lyrical theme for "Goatcraft Torment" is about praising all forms of iniquity. Most of it revolves around violent sexual desires and sadomasochism. Some disturbing lyrical passages even refer to interest in the torture of children, and while Urgehal are notorious for their lack of lyrical subtlety on their previous albums, the material on "Goatcraft Torment" is the most misanthropic and Satanic to date. As anticipated, the word "Satan" is overused to an extent that would make even Dark Funeral's Magus Caligula a little envious.

Even though this is not Urgehal's best release it's very much recommended to all fans of old school Black Metal that's been deprived from any modern enhancements.

Favored tracks are: "Goatcraft Torment" (title track) , "Risus Sardonius" , "Antireligiøs" , "Dødsmarsj Til Helvete".

Originality ........... 15
Musicianship ....... 19
Songwriting ......... 17
Production .......... 20
Lyrics ................. 10
........................... 81