June 10, 2014 Enthroned – Sovereigns (Album review)
Belgium’s Enthroned has been a part of the black metal scene since its first uprising in the early 1990’s, through its transformation into the modern day. After founding member Cernunnos took his life in April of 1997, the band went on to finish recording their second album Towards The Skullthrone of Satan dedicating it to him. Lasting more than twenty years, Enthroned has undergone many lineup changes over that time. The last original member, Sabathen, left in 2006, though the name and mission of the band persists. Carrying on Enthroned’s legacy is Nornagest who played guitar from 1995 until 2007 when arthritis caused him to lay down the ax and take over as lead vocalist. In 2014, the current line up consists of Nornagest (lead vocals), Neraath (lead guitar/vocals), ZarZax (rhythm guitar), Phorgath (bass), and Menthor (drums).
Their album Obsidium (2012) gained acclaim as a welcomed expansion of their true black metal roots, considered to be a successful experimental boundary pusher. Two years later, Enthroned strikes back with the release of Sovereigns keeping the atmospheric and experimental dynamics featured on Obsidium while bringing back flashes of true black metal elements. The entire album is riddled with disconcerting voices ranting in the background adding a haunting and eerie sound. One cannot help but draw similarities to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (1973), making the listener feel as if they are going insane, especially on stand out tracks like “Of Feathers And Flames”, and “Lampshade Of Invisible Light”. Both songs show a tremendous ability to blend speed , atmosphere, and dirty old school black metal style riffs into a complete and unique sound. This proves that Sovereigns is both an expansion of unique experimental elements and a reaffirming commitment to the Old Guard of black metal.
There is no shortage of impeccable drumming lining the album through its entirety. The cymbal work is eye-opening, standing out as ferocious and sharp, like the clashing of steel in a medieval skirmish. An aesthetically pleasing symmetry is struck between bass kicking headbanging rhythmic pulses and the frantic spraying of machine gun fire like blastsbeats. This broad range of percussion elements are prevalent on tracks such as “Of Shrines And Sovereigns” and “The Edge Of Agony”. Menthor’s mastery of the thunder skins is the central nervous system of Enthroned and the horns that crown the beast. Although the album only features three strategically placed solos, they pack a punch. With the exception of the more harmonious solo featured in “Divine Coagulation”, the others coincide with more of a thrash influence displaying chaotic stringmashing joined by trembling vibrato bridge work similar to inserting an eggbeater into your skull on high.
The lyrics and themes cover a variety of deities and demons such at Botis, an Earl of Hell, who commands 60 demonic legions, forges alliances between enemies, speaks of the past, and can tell the future. Seven of the nine tracks on the album end with “Thus spoke_______” (Insert the names of different demons) making this piece of music a lyrically-themed album based on the dark and illusive transcendence of the occult. The sound of Sovereigns is more than just musicians recording in a studio, feeling as if the members are just vessels channeling an other-dimensional blackness equally horrific as it is attractive. The album ends with speed and intensity, invoking a vicious primal anguish during “Baal al-Maut” and “Nerxiarxin Mahathallah” shattering any possible sense of confinement.
Black metal is evolving and many musicians do not feel bound to the prognosis of critics, fans and the shackles of parameters or templates. There is tremendous depth and diversity to Sovereigns. A cohesive symmetry between clarity and distortion backed by relentless percussion and teeth grinding vocals make it an incredible album and stand out record for 2014 in the extreme metal scene. CrypticRock gives this album 4.5 out of 5 stars.