Another one of those bands that seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth, Norway’s GEHENNA released this album back in 2005 and has been in deep hibernation ever since. “WW”, which I assume stands for World War, was touted as a return to form album of sorts when it came out, something I cannot really deny.
This band has been beset by something of an identity crisis ever since they first appeared on the scene, going from the Goth-ish Black Metal sound of “First Spell” to a more streamlined Symphonic sound on “Seen Through The Veils Of Darkness” and “Malice” to a full-on Death Metal sound on “Murder”. Sure, they’ve been (reasonably) adept at all these styles but it’s safe to say that Dolgar and co. are at their most deadly potent when they stick to their Black side, so to speak, and in this regard “WW” is indeed a great return to form. The synths packed up and left a long time ago, any and all traces of Death Metal have been purged, and the result is a grimy, evil and truly bleak album that owes much to the early Norwegian releases (particularly “De Myetsriis Dom Sathanas” and “Pentagram”).
The band succeeds at establishing a tangibly unsettling vibe early on and letting it course through each and every track until the morose end. The fact that they did so without the aid of keyboards and coupled with the fact that many of these riffs are simple two-note affairs is a shining testament to the band’s compositional skills. As has always been the case with this band, the croaky rasp of Dolgar steals the show, as his hellish pipes regale the listener with bloody tales of death and decay (the lyrics to “Flames Of The Pit” and “Pallbearer” are ridiculously depressing). Frost handled drumming duties here and his carpet-bombing style compliments the somewhat dry guitars perfectly, with the drums causing the album to sound faster paced than it actually is, while the riffs themselves deliver that requisite crunch that often gives the album a rather Doom-y vibe in places (think DARTHRONE’s “Hate Them” album). The first half of the album is pretty much flawless, with the speedy blasts and blood-curdling melodies of “Death To Them All” and the slower stomp of “Flames Of The Pit” being definite highlights.
In no way is “WW” as atmospheric and layered as “Seen Through The Veils...” or as brutal as “Adimiron Black” or “Murder”, but it is easily darker and more consistent than anything they’ve released in many years. If traditional riff-centred Black Metal (topped off with superb vocals) rocks your boat then don’t hesitate to pick up “WW”.
(Online May 12, 2010)