Friday, April 11, 2014

Throne of Ahaz - At the Mountains of Northern Storms (1992)

Throne of Ahaz was one of the better Black Metal bands to emerge from Sweden, in the early '90s. For one reason or another, they failed to attain the same level of notoriety of their less deserving peers in the scene. Nonetheless, these guys managed to release two very solid full-lengths and a demo. Released in 1992, their first effort was titled At the Mountains of Northern Storms.

The songwriting here is not what most would expect from a Black Metal recording of this time period. However, it makes perfect sense, as the Norwegian sound was just becoming established and many of their contemporaries had their own thing going, before shifting gears and following the path created by the likes of Darkthrone and Burzum. Of the three proper tracks on this tape, none are the sort of fast-paced, one-dimensional compositions that would soon be spewed forth from every corner of Europe and beyond. Songs such as "The Calling Blaze" showed some influence from early Bathory, while still offering up plenty of Doom riffs that would make Candlemass proud. The band members' background in earlier Death Metal groups is noticeable in the musicianship and even one of the riffs found in the title track. This vibe is present in the final song, "Under a Fullmoon Night", but the raspy vocals and shoddy sound help tie it to the rest of the material.

The production has just enough static, distortion and hissing to add to the old school vibe of the music, while still allowing for everything to come across rather well. The guitars are raw enough, but possess a thick and powerful sound. The guitar tone is not as sharp as on Nifelheim, however. The drumming is in the background, where it belongs, yet loud enough to serve its purpose. The vocals avoid the common demo issue of being either too loud or too quiet, being right at the appropriate level.

At the Mountains of Northern Storms is quite good for a demo. In fact, it beats the hell out of most Black Metal being released these days, especially in Sweden. The songwriting is varied and displays compositional skill that was somewhat rare among their peers at that time. Throne of Ahaz followed up on this with the brilliant Nifelheim record, though delays prevented it from having the impact that it should have had. This short-lived project deserves to be more widely known and any of their material is recommended listening.