More recent interpretations of the melodic/Symphonic brand of Black Metal, even insofar as the Norwegian contributors go, have largely been an exercise in sheer predictability. This doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad, but it definitely diminishes the style's appeal to anyone looking for new twists on established formulas. TROLL has offered up a release in "Neo-Satanic Supremacy" that dogmatically conforms to just about every cliché imaginable in this particular capacity. It is quite well realized as an album, showcasing a majestic production that is probably the envy of current OLD MAN'S CHILD fans, and a solid performance by all in congress, and more particularly on the part of drummer Ygg. But good luck to anyone who wants to point out a significant difference in approach between this and a host of other Scandinavian bands seeking to recapture the spirit of "In The Nightside Eclipse", minus the technical and progressive elements that made it unique, and the distant sounding production that kept it out of accessibility for many lukewarm fans of extreme music.
The two main draws at work here that keep things interesting are the vocals and the keyboards. No matter how many flawless blast beats are thrown out, or how many blurring tremolo riffs frost up the edges of the arrangement, the string and piano ambiences overtake the entire album and nearly turn it into an Industrial lullaby. It almost seems like it wants to become an "In Sorte Diaboli" homage, but it avoids the horn calls and posh brass themes and listens closer to clean version of ODIUM with a less shrill sounding vocalist. The vocals are actually pretty heavily geared towards an early 90s DARKTHRONE meets BEHERIT style of guttural mutterings that intelligible enough to be followed, but still garbled enough to be appropriate for a band bearing the name TROLL. The culmination of these two elements is pretty close to what might be heard if Danny Elfman wrote a Black Metal score to one of Tim Burton's films, perhaps a really twisted remake of "Corpse Bride" or "The Nightmare Before Christmas" filmed in a really bleak and somewhat pale black and white picture quality.
Bearing all of this in mind, when contrasting this from earlier offerings in the genre that bear heavy similarity to it, such as "Stormblast" and "The Sad Realm Of The Stars", this could be likened to shouting a very slightly varied version of the same sentence that there bands did more than a decade prior, through a brand new PA system rather than a megaphone. When listening to fairly entertaining fits of blackened mayhem with the double bass pedal going overtime and the droning guitar riffs fading into a nebula of keyboard textures such as "Alt For Satan" and a slightly more epic sounding variant with a church organ backdrop in the title song "Neo-Satanic Supremacy", it doesn't really go too far beyond the expected Thrashing extremities occasionally heard out of IMMORTAL in its intensity, and with the exception of a well worked solo on "Smertens Rike", tends to shy away from really exploring the many ways of varying a fairly plain style of songwriting. Each song is an entertaining listen, but it sounds pretty heavily restrained in spite of all the furious eruptions occurring every minute or so between the formulaic principle sections.
Although by no means a poor contribution to the still expanding range of contributors to keyboard heavy Black Metal, TROLL has left everyone wanting on this one. Its primary distinction from other offerings is that it gets so heavy on the keyboards, especially on "Til Helvete Med Alt" and "Ga Til Krig” that it may have some crossover appeal to fans of more Ambient sounding projects that might not necessarily go for bands like DIMMU BORGIR. It essentially seems to be caught between wanting to be as majestically large sounding as EMPEROR, and yet restrain itself to a much shorter and simpler structure, which may be construed by some as being an attempt at radio play. But stylistically it doesn't become offensively bland, and can be appreciated by someone looking for a well constructed, melodic release. This is probably best explored by newcomers to the genre who are not familiar with the wide range of bands who have done material similar to this for the past 12 years.
(Online August 4, 2010)