Friday, February 6, 2009

Gorgoroth - Under the Sign of Hell (1997)

Under the Sign of Hell is the third album from Gorgoroth and, at the time, seemed like a bit of a departure from the sound that had been established on such classics as Pentagram and Antichrist. The sound is far less clear on this album; trading clarity for a very abrasive rawness. The guitars and bass seem to be tuned down, and the drums are featured a bit more prominently in the mix. As for the vocals, what can be said. Pest unleashes his most hellish performance, here.

From the first song, "Revelation of Doom", they unleash a chaotic fury of blast beats, thrashy guitars and inhumanly hateful shrieks. At a time when many of their contemporaries were "evolving", Infernus and his cohorts seem content to become even more primitive. The song is rather short, but does well to set the stage for what is to come. Also, in only a few minutes, it showed a lot of variety in tempo changes. It is cold, misanthropic and utterly merciless.

"Krig" begins with a brilliant tremolo riff, showcasing the great talent possessed by Infernus. The atmosphere is far from the somber darkness, found on previous efforts. This is pure madness. Pest's vocals are filled with hatred and dementia. The title is very appropriate, as this sounds like total war upon the feeble sheep of the mythical Jew-saviour. You can almost smell the blood on your sword.

As soon as the previous song ends, "Funeral Procession" begins, leaving almost no time for listeners to take a breath. This features some slower sections, with ghastly moaning and a woman's death gasp. Just under the two minute mark, Infernus unleashes some absolutely brilliant melodies. Enough can never be said to praise the songwriting abilities of this man. How many can make such short songs feel so epic?

The next song begins with calm sounds of the North wind blowing cold, as a faint guitar is heard in the distance. As "Profetens Åpenbaring" really gets going, the atmosphere is quite different than what one would expect from a Gorgoroth album, though hints of this first emerged on Antichrist. The clean vocals, and the rhythm of the song, are reminiscent of Isengard. Pest still manages to wield enough of his demonic screeching, throughout the song.

"Postludium" is an eerie track of backward messages and strange noises. This brief nightmare is what Gorgoroth considers to be a break from the madness.

"Ødeleggelse og Undergang" begins with fast tremolo riffs, blasting drums and insanely hellish vocals. This is, possibly, the best song on the album. It contains the trademark Infernus riffs that have made Gorgoroth among the elite of Norwegian Black Metal. About a minute or so in, the atmosphere becomes much darker. The pace slows down, as Infernus utilizes haunting open-arpeggio notes. This is the time to light the black candles, to unsheathe the blade and to bleed in the cold night air. Carve your chest open and gouge your own heart out, throwing this symbol of humanity onto the snow-covered ground and embracing emptiness...

"Blood Stains the Circle" is a direct continuation of the previous song, as it flows seamlessly from one to the next. Pest's screams become absolutely insane and out of control. The pace is unrelenting. On this night, you will bleed until the last drop.

"The Rite of Infernal Invocation" is the longest song on the album. It is also the only one to feature a guitar solo. The song structure is very reminiscent of older bands, with a lot of thrashy riffs present. After a few minutes of hellish frenzy, there is nothing but some bizarre effect, similar to the sounds made by the demonic spirits from "The Evil Dead". This goes on for a few minutes, leading into the final song.

The album concludes with "The Devil Is Calling", which is consumed by an oldschool Black Metal feeling. As it fades in, it is pure evil dripping like blood from a slashed throat. This embodies the spirit of Hellhammer and Bathory, while being pure genius from the mind of Infernus. This mid-paced song is another highlight of Under the Sign of Hell.

This is probably the last of the essential Gorgoroth albums, as others would come along and contaminate those releases that followed this one. If any album is like a fist in the faces of feeble Christian scum, this is it.