For a band as ridiculously talented as Norway’s BLOOD RED THRONE remain and will forever be, the quintet’s sixth full-length album, “Brutalitarian Regime,” is at once a solid and porous example of modernized Death Metal.
There’s no way around it: “Brutalitarian Regime” pales in comparison to the near majestic “Souls of Damnation” and the considerably more aggressive “Altered Genesis.” In this regard, it’s impossible to dismiss any lingering disappointment, but all of these negative emotions are commonplace when you’re dissecting a band that only knows how to shit gold. Whether this is due to the integration of a new drummer and guitarist, well, who knows, because the methodical performances and clear-cut production are surely not to blame.
All in all, BLOOD RED THRONE’s latest is technical, heavy, dynamic, etc. So why does it seem so run-of-the-mill? These guys still deliver the same kinetic, pinball riffing, things bouncing all over the place, interesting song structures, crazy amounts of groove, but it’s all at a much smaller degree, laid back and with punches pulled, and just not as memorable or distinctive. Some of the riffs are just not as interesting and ultimately fall into a category of the mundane, been-there, done-that, even if they still manage to keep you on the balls of your feet.
The album begins lithely with its first three songs but eventually sinks into the merely adequate until finally resurrecting itself with the strongest track on the album, “Melena,” and a cover of PESTILENCE’s “Twisted Truth.” An omnipresent groove circles about from start to finish, but this bouncing body of work is simply too familiar and the band seems to be riding this trick pony into the ground. The semblance in sound isn’t the only drawback either, as the surge in background vocals is definitely distracting - lead vocalist Vald does a formidable enough job – and its prevalence consistently reminds just how off-putting some stretches of this album can be.
For the sheer amount of talent, this is a hit, but conversely, not a kill-shot. More shoulder puncture than heart-stopper. The bass play by Erlend Caspersen in tracks like “The Burning” and “Trapped, Terrified, Dead,” is, as usual, a highlight, as is the drumming by newcomer Emil Wiksten, but for whatever reason, they both sound inhibited. BLOOD RED THRONE is one of those bands that benefits from playing with a more of Jazzy, free-wheeling style, not completely following one another’s lead and open to branch into different directions. This reserved approach is what makes “Brutalitarian Regime” walk instead of run; there isn’t enough variation in the overall sound, a result from the band not going out on enough limbs.
The truth is that BLOOD RED THRONE haven’t created a bad Death Metal album, nor an average one (due in large part to the band’s abilities and vibrant sound), but as a follow-up to “Souls of Damnation,” it just doesn’t make the cut. Recommended, but still an unfortunate step backward for this great band.
(Online October 11, 2011)