The process of fully understanding the Norwegian beast that spawned GORGOROTH and all of the other wicked metallic orders, who turned 1994 into a year long protest against all that was destroying Metal, is mostly one of unlearning. This process varies depending on the individual, but in all cases, involves letting go of any attachment to what conventional wisdom deems to be beautiful. Contrary to what many will tell you, Black Metal is very much a beautiful art form, but it presents itself in a fashion that is far too honest for most to handle, and often requires a concerted effort in order for it’s outer layers of brutality and inner layers of consonant melody to be fully comprehended.
This 1994 promo, which is widely swapped online due to being pretty scarce in analog form lately, presents two sides of GORGOROTH’S variation on the revolution that exploded in the same year. These sides could be best described as two sides of a decomposing head, one side still in the process of having its flesh consumed by the unseen janitors of nature, the other fully laid bare to the bone without a trace of its living fleshy shell. The former side is the extremely raw and under-produced demo that the band pieced together in 1993, which sounds fairly similar in quality to DARKTHRONE’S “Land Of Frost” demo, although vocally it’s 3 times as screechy and morose. The latter side is the clear cut, crisp yet thick as hell 2 songs that are found on the band’s legendary debut “Pentagram”.
Naturally to anyone first trying to discover and understand this sort of music, the last place that you will go is a rough demo that would usually only be sought by a diehard fan, but these were also the necessary process by which the rotting corpse became the aesthetically acceptable skeleton that is a favorite villain in various supernatural myths. “Gathered At Blakulla” is mostly a collection of random noises simulating what sounds like tortured spirits whaling away at passing ships on the Island contained in the song’s title. “Sexual Bloodgargling” sounds a little bit more atmospheric despite the “Deathcrush” sounding title, and other than the extremely low fidelity vocal mixing, passes for something similar to BURZUM’S early material, but with a vocal job closer to what you’d hear on a MAYHEM demo. “(Under) The Pagan Megalith” is the only song on here that really closely resembles the more thrashing style exhibited on the band’s full length debut, mostly in the form of SLAYER-like riffs that are a little slower than said band’s first 3 albums.
By contrast, the two songs that are promoting the album that followed reveal a band that is probably closest to the blackened Thrash style pioneered by SODOM, HELLHAMMER and BATHORY in the early to mid 80s of any adherents to the 2nd wave in Norway. This is particularly noticeable in the extremely clear riff construction of both songs. Blast beats are often employed, but not in the perpetual way heard on “Transylvanian Hunger”. Likewise, the band seems least drawn to the minimalistic nature of the genre that is heavily present in DARKTHRONE’S and BURZUM’S music at this point in history, and isn’t afraid to throw in more than 2 or 3 riffs and one change in feel per song, much the way DARKTHRONE did on “A Blaze In The Northern Sky”. “Katharina’s Bortgang” actually makes use of this really chaotic wall of sound for the first minute and 50 seconds before bursting into a series of intricate Thrash sections, much in the manner that a lightning bolt might rip a huge crack in an otherwise perfectly black sky.
In addition to being a fun listen for the refined ear, this promo sort of functions as a gateway and a teaching school for someone not well schooled in this genre. The old school Thrash Metal fan who may be prone to giving this genre a chance because of exposure to SODOM’S “In The Sign Of Evil” or any of BATHORY’S first 3 albums could definitely appreciate the solid blend of rapid paced riffing and dark melodies on the 2 promo songs, while the 3 demo songs might take a little more time to appreciate for what they are. But the real place for the crossover from the slightly less extreme Thrash Metal of MORBID SAINT or POSSESSED to this band is found in the full length debut “Pentagram”.
(Online December 10, 2008)