So here we have the highly regarded (and at times just as equally overlooked) debut full-length from Norway’s most wholesome band, and in all honesty I simply don’t get what all the fuss is about. Is it heavy? Yes. Does it feature more than two worthy riffs? You bet. True Norwegian Black Metal? Absolutely. So yeah, this is a solid album all the way through but it lacks that certain “something” that made albums like “A Blaze In The Northern Sky” and “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” so special. “Pentagram” is a no-frills-attached riff monster that goes for the throat from the first second and doesn’t let up until the head is completely severed from the rest of the body. Infernus’s riffs are relatively simple in structure but they are all pulled off with style and a definite Thrash vibe to boot, which I dig severely. No problems there, nor in the guest bass duties of one Samoth. You see, the only factor keeping me from fully going berserker over this very album is Hat, the vocalist of a thousand cat yelps. Jesus, this guy’s vocals get seriously grating after just a few minutes and for the majority of the album he spits out his lines in a very repetitive and listless manner. Yes these shrieks/yelps/cries are intense but also very, very stupid. If Pest or Gaahl handled all the vocals on this album then it would’ve been an infinitely more potent album.
Naff vocals aside, there are more than a handful of serious gems on this album, most notably “Bergravelsenatt” and “Under The Pagan Megalith”. The former is a straightforward Black Metal track that manages to conjure up a tangible vibe of nastiness and evil while the latter is another riff-heavy monster with a strong Thrash bent. Hat also does some solid vocals on this track, wonder above wonder. The mid-paced stomp and mournful melodies of “Crushing The Scepter (Regaining A Lost Dominion)” is also a grim joy to behold.
There’s no doubt that this is indeed a very solid debut album but I still can’t rate it as high as “Under The Sign Of Hell” or “Ad Majorem...”. At times it just feels too one-dimensional to really get my blood rushing. But don’t despair – “Antichrist” is just around the corner... (I’ve always wanted to say that...)
(Online February 9, 2008)