Regardless of one’s opinion of their music, one thing that no one could reasonably fault ENTHRONED on is persistence. These Belgians have been soldiering on for nigh on two decades despite an ever-changing musical landscape and seemingly constant line-up changes. That they are a resilient bunch is beyond dispute. The main sticking point, however, has been the issue of inconsistency that has plagues them all throughout their career. The promising riff-heavy and semi-Folky vibe of their first two albums soon gave way to incessant blasting speed so typical of many late 90s Black Metal, leading the band’s output from 1999’s “The Apocalypse Manifesto” to 2002’s “Carnage In Worlds Beyond” to degenerate into by-the-numbers Norsecore nonsense. The band pulled a major rabbit out of the hat with 2004’s “XES Haereticum”, a career highlight that saw them injecting their trademark blasting with a strong melodic focus (and even a hell of a lot of really classy guitar solos). Just as they were beginning to hit their stride long-time vocalist Lord Sabathan left the fold, leaving guitarist Nornagest to pick up the reins.
While I remain a fan of the band, I have to say that, up to this point, this Nornagest-led incarnation of ENTHRONED has failed to really blow my socks off. 2007’s “Tetra Karcist” was intense but unmemorable, and 2010’s “Pentagrammaton”, while more progressive in nature, was merely decent. “Obsidium” is the band’s latest effort and based on the advance press I’ve seen, supposedly one of their strongest works yet. When the title track surfaced a little while back I was all psyched for this release, as its razor-sharp melodies and strong MAYHEM undercurrent easily hit all the right spots. It’s a pity, then, that the remainder of the material couldn’t sustain this quality.
In many ways “Obsidium” the logical successor to “Pentagrammaton”, as it sees the band continue to explore more left-field riffs and song structures. The speed is still intact, and Nornagest provides a truly ferocious vocal performance, but this album’s Achilles heel is its inability to ‘click’. The flow – both within the songs, as well as between them – is erratic in the extreme, resulting in an album that’s structurally interesting but severely lacking in terms of memorable melodies and/or riffs. There are exceptions to this, as tracks like “Oblivious Shades” and “Petraolevm Salvia” amply demonstrate. The former features some truly haunting melodies that only get better as the song progresses and the latter sounds a lot like a beefed-up reinterpretation of “Nehast” (my personal favourite track off their previous album). These songs see a well-oiled band at work, with driving riff assaults meshing wonderfully with snaky melodies. When their ideas gel, this shit kicks ass. The problem is that the majority of the songs on here do not gel. Opener “Sepulchred Within Opaque Slumber” features some nice backing chants and effective faster sections, but the near constant tempo shifts cause everything to get lost in a blur of confusing noise. This tactic also affects the album closer, “The Blight Vacuum”, where a bizarre drumming pattern derails the eerie vibe brought about by the curious bass feedback and spoken word sections. The drums go from slow to blast at regular intervals, and these weird incremental speed shifts simply don’t flow. It’s like listening to a vinyl at the wrong speed – everything simply sounds out of step.
Overall I’m quite disappointed with this new effort. I was really looking forward to it (I do want the band to succeed), but the songs’ lack of synergy and catchiness spoiled the whole thing for me. The production job is stellar, and the band sound as intense as ever; it’s just a shame that they sound so confused on here...
(Online March 13, 2012)