In the throes of any detailed exploration of the melodic black metal sub-genre it becomes impossible to avoid the somewhat impenetrably well-hidden gems that came from Germany in the 90’s; Bands like Dornenreich, Mephistopheles and even Saxorior brought unique and relatively original takes on the style though their visibility today in the internet age is quite limited compared to better known acts like Dark Fortress. Beyond the late 90’s the majority of Germanic tribes intent on bringing melodic black metal back to life most often pull from the most ‘true’ Swedish examples of the craft for style. This has two possible outcomes: The first is that many of them resemble an unintentional recreation of the flood of wannabes subsequent to the release of major albums from Dissection and Unanimated back in the day; The other side typically modernize that approach towards current production standards and use melodic death metal guitar techniques to fill in the transitions they’re not apt to write. It should not take an even remotely keen ear to recognize the flow of ideas, technical aptitude, and grand melodic themes inherent to any/all classic Swedish melodic black metal but it does take a certain talent to rival the old ways and not simply fumble around imitating them. On their second full-length album Schwarzwald, Germany based quintet Thron further master their melodic craft while still firmly intent on worship of the old Schwedisch anti-cosmic arts.
Before your Pavlovian conditioning has you drooling in anticipation for some kind of second coming of ‘Far Away From the Sun’ know that it isn’t likely ever coming. Instead look to Thron‘s self-titled 2017 album on small Italian label Clavis Secretorvm in preparation for ‘Abysmal’. There should be some immediate association with Necrophobic, past and present, made; The resemblance isn’t plagiarist but the comparison is naturally made. ‘Thron’ (2017) was a riff-driven album of subtleties that sought to bring equal parts yearning tremolo guided runs and some of death metal’s aggression. This second album, and their first for Listenable Records, finds this very new band (formed circa 2015) sounding ancient through the wisdom of their craft. Though it could sound cruel it would seem that Thron have pieced together a set of songs more dynamically interesting, vibrant, and modern beyond Necrophobic‘s ‘Mark of the Necrogram’ from earlier this year. All of this while still managing to honor melodic black metal without gushy, cheap throwaway riffs.
The best heavy metal records are undoubtedly the ones capable of repeatedly transporting the listener into the mesosphere of the mind; True value comes from records that make you think, challenge you with intricacies while never forgetting to tap into memorable structures that’ll slowly program a pleasurable response over time. The mind melting guitar work of Dissection‘s second album, with it’s regal acoustic passages and aggressive guitar work surely inform “Spark of Divinity” and its heavy metal attack but soon these rhythms shift towards something more timely a la Uada. On the other hand aggression and adept guitar skills really define this album and again the long-standing Necrophobic and (later) Sacramentum fans will be most thrilled by its semblances.
“Liturgia” marks the point of exhaustion and welcome reprieve that defines ‘Abysmal’ for me. There is a full hour of music here and the middle portion extends itself about 5-6 minutes too far before “Blood of Serpents” refreshes the attack with something more overtly melodic. This is where Thron excels and as much as I love the sort of ‘heavy metal’ regalia of most of ‘Abysmal’ each tender tremolo picked dual guitar cascade they manage becomes an oasis for my own melodic black metal fandom. From there the full listen actually hits hardest with those final three tracks serving as an example of the pace the album needed throughout. There are points in ‘Abysmal’ where I am a bit lost and my ‘place’ in the experience is uncertain but more importantly there are enough standout moments that I would eventually get pulled back in. It isn’t a perfectly paced record but I would say ‘Abysmal’ achieves its greater goal of creating a melodic black metal record that would have fit in beautifully back in the 90’s Swedish scene.
With this grand leap in capability and maturity Thron arrive as a professional and impressive melodic black metal band on their second full-length. ‘Abysmal’ is a great bloody bout of darkness to get lost in but, it does align itself dangerously close to the old masters, just barely avoiding imitation. In crossing the streams of consciousness guiding Necrophobic, Sacramentum and Dissection for ‘Abysmal’ there is ‘something for everyone’ but not yet a fully distinct font of Thron‘s own dead soul just yet. Highly recommended to melodic black metal enthusiasts.
The metallic scent of blood. 4.0/5.0
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