Saturday, December 6, 2008

Gorgoroth - Antichrist (1995)

Antichrist is the second Gorgoroth album, released in 1995. This album is very much in the vein of its predecessor, Pentagram, while maintaining an identity of its own. This album introduces a new vocalist, Pest (of Obtained Enslavement), while also featuring Hat on some songs as well. Handling the drumming duties on this outing is Frost, of Satyricon, utilizing a more minimalist approach to suit the music.

It is difficult to process how one man can write so many brilliant guitar riffs, yet Infernus seems to do so with ease. His influences are not hard to discern, yet they come together in a distinctive style. Also, while creating raw Black Metal, Gorgoroth always maintain a high level of power in their compositions.

The album opens with a brief intro, "En Stram Lukt av Kristent Blod". This is not particularly noteworthy and adds very little to the album, really. The true beginning of the album is "Bergtrollets Hevn". This song shows the same type of melody as on Pentagram, with slight progression. Hat's vocals maintain the very raspy approach from the previous album, though seeming a little more in control. Frost employs some old school drum beats, in the beginning and end, unleashing double bass throughout. Following a couple verses, a short break leads the listener into a crushing acceleration, which will give way to the return of the opening riff at the end, accentuated by Hat's screams. The song ends with the sound of winter winds blowing across the desolate landscape.

The winds lead into one of the best riffs ever created, as the song "Gorgoroth" begins. This is, definitely, one of the highlights of the band's career, alongside "Maaneskyggens Slave". Beginning abruptly, the fast tremolo riffs and blastbeats are reminiscent of Transilvanian Hunger; the layers of guitar and bass work well to create a somber atmosphere. This song progresses narratively, building up climactic tension with every part towering over the previous one with a dramatic increase of passion. It starts out on an extremely high level already. A high-pitched, vibrant and humblingly epic lead hovers over crushing blastbeats, commanding attention on its own, and in a move only few bands can manage to pull off, lead and rhythm change places. The lead remains the same, but the instruments at lower pitch that previously only provided the simplistic, high-speed background take a lead role by morphing into a memorable, beautiful accentuated melody at moves into the foreground, amplifying the epic character of the opening part's atmosphere. After this introductory theme has reached the peak of its build-up, it is released into the triplet-beat that is all too common in Black Metal, but that only few bands can pull of as well as Gorgoroth do here. It is hard to describe how captivating the combination of rhythm, riff and vocal performance is, it is simply stunning. There is some variation in the form of drumless pieces of atmospheric build-up to enhance the emotional experience even more. The guitars are quite similar to early Mayhem ("Life Eternal") or Burzum, while the drum work is similar to old Bathory. A short guitar solo finishes the triplet-based part, and you can hear that this solo was put in merely for effect, to ease the listener into the final parts of this song, which then pre-climaxes in the kind of lead only Infernus could write, then when you thought you had reached the absolute highest point, it gets better, and even better after that. After the neck-breaking lead you had probably first mistaken for the climax, a second short solo a lot more beautiful than the last thrusts the emotional threshold even higher, and just seconds later, a brilliant part carried by clean, mournful vocals carries the song into the majesty of the night sky.

"Possessed (By Satan)" begins with a very old school feeling. A Celtic Frost influence is apparent, at first, then the song continues with more of a galloping drumbeat. The song speeds up, mid-way through, with memorable riffs, before returning to the previous theme. Pest's vocals also display a noticeable accent, which I haven't noticed in much o fhis other work. It adds to the feel, nicely.

"Heavens Fall" is an instrumental that would not have sounded out of place on Pentagram. Halfway through, the pace switches to an old Hellhammer/Celtic Frost rhythm, followed by a couple screams from Pest, before galloping toward the battlefield.

The final song, "Sorg", is another highlight of this album. The sound of thunder and rain, accompanied by bells, remind one of the song "Black Sabbath". This is a Black Metal funeral march. The atmosphere is one of sorrow and the vocals are sparse and suit the music well. Here, again, Hat utilizes clean vocals, sounding like a choir of the damned. The song is very slow-paced and melodic. It is like a dark journey through the cold gravelands. Despite being raw Black Metal, the production is quite clear, as on Pentagram. Some of the riffs, near the middle, are reminiscent of Black Sabbath, though not as obvious as Ophthalamia's debut. The last verse is again sung with clean and somber voice, and Hat's last note is made longer by a very strong reverb, left alone to fade away slowly, slowly... The silence is broken by more thunder and the sounds of the falling rain as this classic album fades to black...

Overall, there is little to complain about, regarding this release. It is a bit short, but accomplishes what it intended to within that time. It's not quite the monster that is Pentagram, but a worthy follow-up, nonetheless.