ENTHRONED has been a band that I have heard in passing but have not really received the benefit of actually being able to listen to an album start to finish. I have been meaning to give this band a chance for a long while now and have only been daunted by latent comparisons to that of DARK FUNERAL and MARDUK. This comparison is true at the worst moments of “Xes Haereticum” where overzealous blast-beats are exploited and the band is stuck like a broken record at 230 beats per minute. Do not dismiss the outfit altogether however as some attention and a proper thorough listen reveal there is talent and quality to be found in varying amounts.
Speed for the sake of speed is not a good thing. 50% of “Xes Haereticum” falls into this trap and diminishes the overall product due to laziness when it comes to song writing. ENTHRONED are capable of producing good songs, they merely refuse to do so for a large portion of this album and like to package filler tacked on to an EP’s worth of solid material. Utilizing speed is not bad, but when it forms the backbone of several tracks replacing atmosphere or riffs as the emphasis then you have a problem. You could easily stop listening to the album midway through the third track and fail to remember where you left off if you returned to the album. That is never a good sign.
The vocals presented here are relatively good as Lord Sabathan attempts a higher pitched rasp which genuinely sounds like a demon vying for your soul. Unfortunately these vocals are drowned out way too often by the incessant blasting of the drums and maelstrom of noise. This wall of noise sound is not what Black Metal is about and is more suited for a Death Metal album, which is what “Xes Haeritcum” sounds like during some of the faster compositions. That Death Metal vibe actually contains a hint of NILE at moments with some of the mystical riffs and leads and is the most redeeming aspect of this sound.
The actual uniqueness of the album is placed solidly in the fact that ENTHRONED are not tied down to ancient beliefs about what Black Metal should be. For instance, guitar solos are sprinkled throughout the album and add a touch of musicianship void of many releases. The melodic leads are definitely welcomed and only enhance the sound. The album also takes a turn for the better when “Vortex Of Confusion” creeps in with that awesome intro which slays before falling back into that rut of mindless speed. It does break into another killer riff at but they seem unable to go 30 seconds without cranking up the tempo via blast-beats and double-bass. This song also features a couple of excellent solos and showcases the musicianship this outfit is capable of. The track closes on a good note as well with a solid riff and better drumming that stands out solidifying its position as the standout track on the album.
Overall, the second half of the album is much better than the first starting off with “Vortex Of Confusion”. “A.M.S.G.” slows it down a bit acting as an intro for the blistering “Daemon’s Claw”. The beginning is pretty sick as the guitars cut in slowly like a knife being drug down your body. This track also has a bit of an industrial vibe to it. When “Daemon’s Claw” finally shreds through the speakers we are actually greeted with something ferocious. Finally a faster track not weighed down by lacklustre drumming and lacklustre tremolo riffs.
“Seven Plagues, Seven Wraths (XES Revelation)” is a rather unique venture which features some odd vocal-work, layering clean vocals over the normal approach. It actually sounds quite compelling and is an interesting idea. This is one of the prime examples of the sense of experimentation which seems to be riddled across this disc as well. It seems as though ENTHRONED have about a hundred ideas when four or five of them truly need to be focused upon and developed.
This album does have its moments, unfortunately those moments are too far and few between and “Xes Haereticum” is plagued with far too much filler and underdeveloped ideas. Certainly this is an interesting listen and can be enjoyed and I am sure this will please long-time ENTHRONED fans. It must be said that in the end this is one of the better modern Black Metal sounding releases and easily slays the Black ‘n Roll trend which has begun to develop. (Online July 13, 2005)