Thursday, May 2, 2013

Urgehal - Massive Terrestrial Strike (1998)

Urgehal's first album was nothing special, though it was solid enough that I ended up giving their second album a chance. This was mostly in assuming that, since they showed a solid foundation in the Norwegian Black Metal style, perhaps their sophomore effort would show more creativity and move away from the generic approach of Arma Christi. Released in 1998, Massive Terrestrial Strike proved to be even more disappointing than its predecessor.

Their debut was plagued by a very flat production that was neither particularly good nor raw enough to really possess a dark and underground feeling. The second time around, the production is even worse and sounds more modern and too clean, at times. The drums, for example, should never be this clear and high in the mix. That is not just a rule for Black Metal, but for any sort of Metal. This is not some street urchin's jungle music and should not place any real emphasis on the percussion in a way that detracts from the guitar melodies. As well, the vocals and bass are too high and sort of disconnected from the rest in a way.

As for the material itself, the opening track was enough to make me consider not finishing the album, the first time I listened to it. The intro section and a lot of the vocal choices were very off-putting and became irritating in short order. Songs like "The Saturnine Denomination" show that Urgehal had no intentions of straying from their generic roots and adding any sense of their own identity into the mix. The only deviations from the established norm prove to be so out of place that they ruin what little atmosphere that the band managed to create, which is not much. What one can find here are tenth-rate Darkthrone riffs combined with subpar Celtic Frost imitation. One might at least give them some credit for playing a more straightforward style of Black Metal when many of their peers were experimenting with various alien elements or going toward a purely symphonic route. However, I cannot give this mediocre record a pass just because it isn't as bad as it could have been. The fact is that, if the members of Urgehal had put forth a little more effort, they could have simultaneously upheld the old traditions while also putting forth some ideas to separate themselves from the rest. The only real reason that this stands out from the likes of Darkthrone and Gorgoroth is because it is not nearly as good as even the worst efforts from those bands.

Massive Terrestrial Strike is another useless album from a band that never did anything worth mentioning. It is true, 1998 was a very dismal year for Black Metal and, outside of demos and some mini-albums, is Cerná Krev, from Maniac Butcher, may be one of the only full-lengths worth hearing, along with Horna's Kohti Yhdeksän Nousua. Both are superior to Urgehal's second album in all ways, even better at ripping off Darkthrone riffs while still carving out an identity of their own while doing so. This L.P. simply goes to prove that, for the most part, the dark magic of the past had left Norway by this time. Avoid this.