Gorgoroth – Instinctus Bestialis

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One of the most controversial and iconic bands in the Norwegian black metal scene, for many years the extracurricular activities of Gorgoroth members eclipsed the music being recorded. We had the over-the-top blasphemy of the infamous Warsaw gig of 2004, complete with nude crucified models and sheep heads on spikes, the rape allegations levelled at founding member Infernus in 2006, then the schism a year later which saw imposing frontman Gaahl and songwriter/bassist King ov Hell fail in their attempt to wrest control of the band from Infernus.

Thankfully all these distractions appear to be at an end, although Infernus has been unable to hold onto a stable line-up. Ninth full-length studio effort Instinctus Bestialis (Soulseller), originally recorded in 2013, has finally been released with former Obituary member Frank Watkins (Bøddel) and Thomas Asklund returning on bass and drums, and newbie Atteringer stepping up to the mic. So, after all the drama of the past decade, has the six year wait since 2009’s QuantosPossunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt (Regain) been worth it?

Upon pressing play, it’s instantly apparent that the band’s trademark blasting ferocity has not been reined in one iota. The vicious, clipped riffing and light speed blastbeats of ‘Radix Malorum’ will quite simply pin your ears back. The same can be said of next track ‘Dionysian Rite’ with Infernus doubling-up furiously and one of the three (yes, three) hired lead guitarists adding slick pinch harmonics to proceedings. The breakdown is suitably sinister with Atteringer intoning “Intoxication!” like a deranged, drunken cult leader. ‘Ad Omnipotens Aeterne Diabolus’ starts off slowly and mournfully, playing around with different tempos and ideas including some vaguely Dissection tasting guitar lines.

While the band more or less perfected their style several years ago, somewhere between 2000’s Incipit Satan and 2003’s Twilight of the Idols (both Nuclear Blast), it’s evident that Infernus and his acolytes have plenty more to offer. The naked aggressiveness of the riffing could still blast all the snow off a Norwegian mountain-top with ease and the overriding feeling of being repeatedly pounded by the hammer of Satan is something that you can only get with a Gorgoroth album, and Instinctus Bestialis is no exception. The death metal that infects ‘Come Night’ and ‘Rage in His Light’ are welcome additions that prevent things from being too one-dimensional, with the fantastic solo in the latter raising the bar again.

One noticeable change from previous albums is the vocal style of Atteringer. Opting for a low-pitched growl instead of the high pitched shrieks and rasps favoured by previous vocalists Hat and Pest, his low, unhurried intonations lend proceedings a darker air, especially in the slower moments which allow the tension to build once more. The production is crisp, ensuring all instruments are heard, although the sheer prominence of the guitars and relentless drums in the mix at times threaten to turn things into a stew, but this is thankfully dodged.

Hopefully now the music will be all that matters, and with Instinctus Bestialis, Gorgoroth have re-established their position as standard bearers of the Norwegian second wave.

True Satanic Black Metal has never felt so alive.

8.0/10

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JAMES CONWAY

Obituary – Inked in Blood

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Death Metal legends Obituary are back with their first album in five years. Times may change and the band might have embraced the crowdfunding model for funding, but the music is still firmly in the bloody grave of the 1980s. Inked In Blood (Relapse) is the ninth album from the Florida five-piece, currently made up of John Tardy (vocals), Donald Tardy (drums), Kenny Andrews (lead guitar), Trevor Peres (rhythm guitar) and Terry Butler (bass). Andrews and Butler make their studio debut after the departure of Ralph Santolla and long-time bassist Frank Watkins.

That the new album was funded through crowdfunding site Kickstarter and raised six times its original goal of $10,000 shows the band are still in high demand, even after 25-odd years. And with that $60,000 Obituary have delivered a decent slab of classic, straightforward death metal.

Opener ‘Centuries of Lies’ storms straight for the jugular, full of aggression and power. ‘Violent By Nature’ is a sinister mid-tempo slasher, while ‘Violence’ is a classic brutal thrashers. The riffs and downtuned and mean with squealing solos, the double-kick drums rarely let up, and John Tardy’s vocals are as evil as ever.

New guitarist Andrews does a good job of replacing Santolla and delivers simple, straight the point chainsaw riffs. Much of the album sounds like a lost relic from the late 80s or early 90s, which is no terrible thing, but does sound somewhat dated. The slower sings get bogged down and rarely pique the interest; the likes of ‘Back on Top,’ ‘Deny You,’ ‘Out for Blood’ and the title track kill off much of the momentum gathered by the early thrashers. Unfortunately from there on, despite some strong songs, the urgency is lost.

The likes of Carcass and At The Gates have shown age is nothing but a number when it comes to staying relevant in an overcrowded scene. Sadly Obituary arena’ up to the same standard. Inked in Blood is another decent, if uninspiring release from the Florida legends. There’s plenty of enjoyable moments, but little we’ve not heard before and can at times all get a bit pedestrian.

7.0/10

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DAN SWINHOE