Posthum - The Black Northern Ritual - (4/10)
Published on January 2, 2015
Despite its illustrious history and interminable effects on black metal, the Norwegian scene seems to have evened out in recent years, or worse, deteriorated, considering its lack of fresh ideas and the comparatively inferior quality of modern albums. Posthum’s latest album, The Black Northern Ritual, so auspiciously named, and complete with imagery and even band photos that point to a promising postmodern direction, actually turns out to be yet another nail in the coffin, a fact that shouldn’t come as a surprise in light of the band’s previous work, which in case you missed it, isn’t anything to write home about.
Perhaps the joke is on me considering that fact, but Indie Recordings is home to such greats as Solefald, Vreid, and Kampfar, which seems all the more confusing as to how a second-rate band can be labelmates with the cream of the crop. Even so, this is still a frustrating album to listen to because in it one can detect moments of greatness, seeds from which even greater structuring and songwriting can sprout but instead end in stunted growth, withering away at other times into dead ends that beget yet more dead ends. Take the final track, ”North,” for example, which wastes several minutes with boring power chords before a rolling, throbbing Aeternus rhythm steals the show, arguably one of the finest moment on the album, but then alternates with anticlimactic riffs (I suppose for dramatic effect) before lazily terminating with a fadeout of the same riff.
The album’s other fine moment (yes, there are only two) would be “To the Pits,” which in its entirety is a standout track, perhaps because the DSBM tendencies, identified by somber yet uplifting melodies and affecting leads, would be proudly boasted in any band’s discography so with that Posthum has achieved a small victory. Some of these characteristics, too, can be found throughout the rest of the album, such as on the title track, but it takes far too long to get to those points, with riffs that really don’t go anywhere interesting, while other tracks (“Vinter”) just seem regurgitated Nordic fluff with barebones drum patterns that are laughable in their attempt to be epic.
“A Disappearing Sun” is simply too catchy and jovial, in contrast to the mostly mid-paced, icy direction the band has taken, and it’s here when one of the album’s main problems finally clarifies: the vocals. Arguably mixed too high and delivered at a very strained and over-emphatic manner, Jon is more a liability than an asset, despite his role as guitarist, and it underlines the fact that Posthum is simply trying too hard. Indeed, this is the kind of basement black metal that should’ve taken cues from the isolationist backdrop of its own subgenre, especially since none of the self-applied “progressive” or “ambient” elements are even present, which makes the album all the more of an inflated and self-important release than what you might typically encounter.