Gorgoroth – Instinctus Bestialis


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 Quantos Possunt 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.


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Kjeld – Skym


After forming in 2003, Dutch quintet Kjeld has finally got round to releasing their debut album, with the wait presumably down to the difficulty the band has had in translating their lyrical concepts of anti-cosmic mysticism and the nature of death into the Friesian language, a difficult tongue to master. Well, the wait was worth it, for Skym (Hammerheart) is a suitably grim piece of Second-wave worship that fans of Gorgoroth and Enthroned will lap up like blood from a chalice.

With a knack for imbuing searing black metal riffs with a feeling of unease and coldness like the true greats of the genre, the band members have evidently put a lot of thought and effort into crafting the songs for this debut effort. The slightly murky production, with the snare drum in particular high in the mix, ensures that the atmosphere is claustrophobic and full of dread while the pace remains varied throughout.

Although rooted in the light-speed riffing of the Norwegian great and good, as demonstrated on the aggressive opening salvo of ‘Tûzen Sinnen’ and the title track, the lurch into mid-paced suicidal depressive black metal territory on the Forgotten Tomb-worshipping ‘Gerlofs Donia’ is evidence that the band have a few tricks up their sleeves, further demonstrated by the monolithic power of classy album closer ‘Bern Fan Freya.’

While their fellow countrymen Sammath failed to stake a claim for the importance of black metal from the Low Countries with the disappointing Godless Arrogance (Hammerheart), Kjeld has proven that relatively gimmick-free black metal still has a future and that there’s a lot to be said in waiting to ensure you get your debut release right instead of rushing things and being disappointed with the result. On that basis, Kjeld have begun their career in just the right way.


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Krakow – amaran


When you’re handed an album for a Norwegian Metal band, it’s pretty safe for you to assume that you’ve been given a Death or Black Metal record with the fact that a new one pops up almost on a weekly basis. With Krakow’s amaran (Dark Essence) though (yeah they’re not from Poland…) what you’ve actually got is a dark and twisted Stoner/Metal album which revels in bleak down tuned slow riffs and heaviness. When some of the harsher vocals kick in you’ll quickly draw comparisons to their native Kvelertak, but Krakow are a different beast, mashing together several influences like Kvelertak do, but with less focus on the punkier aspects and more drive towards the Doomier side.

The album opens with ‘Luminauts’ which immediately sets the tone for what’s going on here. The mysterious and atmospheric opening to the track is an idea which they run with throughout the record. Each track builds and builds until it reaches a cacophony of sound at the end – and for the most part it works very well. The track ‘Pendulum’ becomes a perfect example of this. It actually sounds like the band were sitting there experimenting with different sounds before someone picked up a guitar and threw down into an awesome bouncy riff. They’ve made it sound effortless to produce, when in reality you know that it would have taken a lot of work.

Perhaps the only drawback here is the fact that you kind of know what you’re getting with each track. They’ve focussed on making each one such an epic it might not be the most accessible to casually pick up– old hardened Doom heads will absolutely love it though. There are some tracks on here as well, like ‘Ten Silent Circles’, where the band has actually looked to expand into quite a proggy sound. By this point you should be able to grasp that Krakow do not pull any punches when it comes to trying to deliver a truly varied soundscape – they’re clearly a talented bunch, with each track sounding very tight and well produced but this deviation isn’t one of the stronger points on the record.

Overall then, with amaran, Krakow have produced a solid Stoner/Doom Metal album which brings together a deluge of different influences whilst also stamping their own authority and sound on proceedings. It isn’t the kind of album you’ll casually pick up and be instantly hooked, but with patience and a good few repeat listens you’ll begin to appreciate the musicianship of the group and all of the little intricacies each track houses.


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