Thursday, November 8, 2012

Enthroned - Towards the Skullthrone of Satan

When talking about the average black metal collection, Enthroned typically isn’t named as an “essential”. But for the ones that are much more into black metal and really want to have more than just “the basics”, this is where Enthroned steps into the picture. Enthroned’s sophomore release, Towards the Skullthrone of Satan, is the album you want to have. The only other widely-known black metal band from Belgium is Lugubrum; and their popularity/status doesn’t even come close to being comparable to Enthroned’s. Ok, so there isn’t really any “Belgian black metal scene” that has its unique traits like Ukraine, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greece, and Australia. That’s where I would include Enthroned with the German black metal scene (which is HUGE) that includes behemoths like Endstille, Nargaroth (black metal ist krieg), and Nyktalgia. But then again, there are way too many obvious differences to just include them in the German scene. But once I look at a map, I see that Belgium borders both Germany AND The Netherlands. Ok, now I know where all of this melodic influence is coming from. So, playing black metal that pulls influence from German and Dutch black metal, Enthroned has put together what appears to be a very unique sound.

The drumming, although lacking in skill and technicality, shines with tons of creativity (which is always most important). The drummer is also great at recovering from mistakes. Although what I would do is keep recording it until I get it right, these guys were obviously running on a limited (and most definitely low) budget, so it was more of a “make as few mistakes as possible” kind of thing than a perfection kind of goal. This all makes sense, and I’m not holding THAT against them…well, I guess I am, because the fact that the drummer repeatedly falls out of time and shows obvious signs of physical exhaustion bothers the fuck out of me. But that’s why I said that this guy is fantastic at recovering from those fuck-ups and getting back in tempo VERY quickly. It’s not something you’re going to notice unless you listen very attentively to the music and especially the drumming. So I’ll give him credit for being creative with all of the different kinds of patterns he uses, not being repetitive, and having the ability to recover from fuck-ups. But I’m not going to just let the fact that he does in fact fall out of time A LOT in EVERY song.

Attention people that say “I only like the melodic forms of black metal”, you’re probably going to like this album! No, it’s not a symphonic black record, so don’t be expecting something like Emperor and Dimmu Borgir, but it does have the melodic aspect that both of those bands do. A better example of the sound I’m talking about is Drukdh, except with more keyboards and shorter song-lengths. Yes! There are keyboards! But here’s the thing with that, and this somewhat puzzles me, but the keyboards are VERY quiet and are WAY in the background. Part of me thinks that the music wouldn’t sound any different without the presence of the keyboards, but then again, the smallest elements can sometimes make the biggest changes in a band’s sound. The majority of the keyboards on the record sound like a synth pad, but there are other parts that have some minimal orchestral sounds.

The guitars are fantastic. I absolutely love the creativity that takes place with the different types of chords and the complex guitar harmonizations. There are several songs, like The Forest of Nazareth, where there’s a part where the guitars and bass play some random catchy riff. The reason why I love these so much is that they’re pulled off so damn well! The guitars and bass match up PERFECTLY and flow together in a seamless mix of vibrant dark colors. The thing that makes the breakdowns in some of the songs so catchy is the bassist. The riffs that he plays during all of the breakdowns are somewhat similar to what some of the first melodic death bands did, except it’s being used in black metal. When you compare Towards the Skullthrone of Satan to other underground black metal albums of its time, Skullthrone has a pretty good sound quality. Although all the different instruments sound really gritty and rough, you can hear everything perfectly! It doesn’t sound like a big explosion of high-pitched noise and shrieks; you can actually hear what the hell all the members are doing.

Although I’m a fan of their entire discography, especially their first two albums and their three most recent ones, Towards the Skullthrone of Satan is the one that I would tell people to look up first when being introduced to this band. I would highly recommend this album to anyone looking to have more than just “the basics” in their black metal collection. I would give Enthroned’s Towards the Skullthrone of Satan a solid score of 16/20.