Karnivore - In the Halls of the Wicked - (9/10)
Published on May 7, 2014
In The Halls Of The Wicked is only the second album Sweden’s Karnivore – who started their career as Karneywar (“karney-war,” I shit you not) – have come up with in a career that has lasted over a decade. However, this sophomore effort is one that packs in about as much aural satisfaction as you’re likely to get out of most more-prolific bands’ entire careers.
Authorities would have you believe Karnivore to be a death/thrash hybrid in the vein of Legion Of The Damned – and such comparison is somewhat apt when describing their debut, The Triumphant Khaoz (2012)1 – but their sophomore effort, while the logical extension of what preceded it, bears little in resemblance to anything that could be rightfully considered thrash metal.
In The Halls Of The Wicked is instead far more characteristic of (admittedly thrashier) black metal acts such as Immortal and crust-period Darkthrone – sitting comfortably at the blackened end of the blackened death metal spectrum. Such characterization is due primarily to the chocked rasp of, vocalist, Martin Holmqvist but is firmly supported by the album’s treble-pervasive tonality and minimalist, drawn-out compositions.
A good point of reference for the sound of In The Halls Of the Wicked is latter-day Dimmu Borgir, sans-symphony, especially their outstanding, 2007 record In Sorte Diaboli – with, effective opener, “Under Ground” in particular positing itself as a grittier incarnation of that album’s “The Serpentine Offering” – and any Dimmu Borgir fans still seeking a suitable successor to that masterpiece (following the atrocious fallout of 2010’s Abrahadabra, since which the customarily fruitful Dimmu Borgir have maintained an uncharacteristic radio silence) would do well to give In The Halls Of The Wicked a spin.
Oh no! Watch out for the big bad skellington!
Highlights include the mesmerizing “An Era Of Decay;” with its wonderfully harsh and transfixing melodies that seem to wrap around and unwind themselves as you listen; and the pounding “Psycho” which gives a slight nod to Karnivore’s supposed thrash heritage along with the blistering “Feast Upon The Living” and “The Warden.”
The songs on In The Halls Of The Wicked are hardly intricate, yet nor are they crude and untreated – instead pulsating along with a frill-less primality akin to early-Sepultura, bolstered by the enchanting, Carcass-meets-Immortal melodies of, guitarist, Jens Englund, who also does a fantastic job of handling bass duties (presumably),2 with the instrument playing a far more prominent and effective role than is par for the genre.
In The Halls Of The Wicked does one thing and it does it well. Having nominated their blackened, sound Karnivore set about getting the maximum out of it with these eight, perfectly-crafted tracks.
1 Recording of The Triumphant Khaoz was completed in 2009 but release of the album was delayed primarily due to the death of longtime guitarist Patrik Mårtensson, due to cancer.
2 Karnivore are only ever listed anywhere as a three-piece: guitar; vocals; drums. Attribution of bass-work to Englund is extrapolated.