Ragnarok - Malediction - (8/10)
Published on March 30, 2013
Ragnarok has never been a band to push the envelope within the realms of black metal. Known more for consistent material that rarely lets down expectations or intensity, this Norwegian act has been trudging along since the glory days of second wave black metal. While the only original member left at this point is drummer, Jontho, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that there has been a perpetual shift in membership since the band’s inception. Aside from certain nuances and aspects, there have never been any huge changes in Ragnarok’s sound and delivery and Malediction, the band’s seventh release, is no different.
If you’ve ever listened to Ragnarok then you know exactly what to expect. Malediction may be slightly less abrasive and a tad more technical than their recent output Collectors of the King and Blackdoor Miracle but it still follows the same formula of those albums. Ragnarok’s music can best be described as no frills second wave black metal: fast, vehement and pretty much nonstop. After a brief symphonic intro, Jontho’s drums and Bolverk’s guitars take off, and in typical Ragnarok fashion, don’t let up until the album is over. The vast, vast, vast majority of this album is blast beats and technical trem picking. The bass and drums are up close and personal, as the rhythm section has been afforded a lovely place in the mix which is higher than most black metal acts. The bass is thick and thundering and goes well with the nonstop barrage of blast beats. One thing is for sure here, drummer Jontho is no slouch because, while the album is pretty an endless barrage of faster than hell blast beats, he manages to throw in fills and rolls which are actually faster than the initial drum beat. Bolverk’s guitar work, while more technical than previous Ragnarok output, still follows the same formula of trem picked intensity, but with more melody in the chord choices. Make no mistake, this is still intense, but there is a stark beauty in the chord choices for the trem picking. Rather than having a constant, forty-five minute blast of seething black metal, a few outside elements shift in and out to add some much needed head space. From the hammering rhythmic power chord strikes during “Iron Cross – Posthumous” to the traditionally styled lead work on “Dystocratic”, Bolverk adds some dynamic to the music while the rest of the band continues to blast forth on all cylinders. Melodic minor key segments, similar to Marduk, appear here and there, again helping to break the blasting intensity. Hans Fyrste provides vocals on Malediction with his raspy and seething, but slightly throaty and guttural vocal lines. His performance is good, but not unlike the countless droves of black metal singers out there.
Malediction is pretty much the embodiment of Ragnarok’s career: intense, blasting and unrelenting. Aside from the brief segues courtesy of Bolverk, there is pretty much one speed. All instruments are performed exceptionally well: the drums are blistering and nonstop and the guitars are technical and intense. The production is surprisingly clean for this blasting, unrelenting black metal style, but it works to Ragnarok’s advantage as the technical nuances are more prominent. Malediction is in no way a reinvention of the wheel, but it should please fans of fast and unrelenting black metal. A lot of bands play this style but few can pull it off as well and as consistent as Ragnarok.