Released: 2009, Earache
I’m sure Norwegian band Blood Red Throne need no introduction to the death metal aficionado, having already released four high-quality death metal albums since 2001. To the uninitiated, the core of Blood Red Throne is comprised of guitarists Død (Trioxin, ex-Satyricon) and Tchort (ex-bassist for Emperor, ex-Satyricon, Green Carnation and Carpathian Forest) and bass supremo Erlend Caspersen (Trioxin, Deeds of Flesh, Emeth, Spawn of Possession). These three highly experienced and amazingly skilled musicians are the backbone of Blood Red Throne.
On SOULS OF DAMNATION, they have retained the lineup that played on 2007’s COME DEATH, which had vocalist Vald (replacing Mr. Hustler) and drummer Anders Haave. Considering the drummer position has been a revolving door of Spinal Tap proportions, it’s a relief that they appear to have plugged this leak on SOULS OF DAMNATION.
Unfortunately I do have to take slight issue with the drumming on this otherwise excellent album. There simply isn’t enough variation on the double-kicking blast-beating to capture the listener’s interest. On COME DEATH, although Anders isn’t the ‘best’ drummer in death metal, there were fills and rolls aplenty; here, it just feels as if Anders is on auto-pilot, doing what comes easily to him. There’s no imagination in the drumming, most of it is straight, on the beat and just…dull. Don’t get me wrong, he gets a fantastically organic and powerful tone from his kit, but we know what he’s capable of on COME DEATH (I haven’t heard either Ground Zero System or In Vain yet), and he just doesn’t live up to the drumming on that album.
Luckily the riffing is still nice and chunky with the really meaty Scandinavian sound, driving the songs along. Is it just me, or have they injected slightly more melody into the riffs? There’s just the slightest tinge of Gothenburg catchiness in Tchort and Død’s guitar-work – and overall the album seems very much more accessible than their previous work, even COME DEATH. They have moved the tiniest bit on from the sound that reminded one of Hate Eternal and Deicide and Cryptopsy; noticeably, the speed has dropped off by quite a bit. None of this should scare the serious death metalhead off, it is still a quality piece of death metal.
Vald came under a bit of criticism when he replaced ex-vocalist Mr. Hustler, who was more of an all-out no-nonsense growler, a la Glen Benton. And yet Vald has managed to bring more variety and dynamics into Blood Red Throne’s sound, throwing in old-fashioned growling and black metal gurgling with equal abandon, bringing to mind the twin vocal attack of Hate Eternal’s Erik Rutan on their latest album FURY AND FLAMES and Cannibal Corpse’s George Fisher.
No Blood Red Throne review would be complete without a mention of Erlend Caspersen’s basswork. The bass is beautifully audible at times, and if you listen out for it, there’s some really technical and groovy basslines under the main riffs and drumming. In summary, this album perhaps occupies the ‘superposition of states’ between being able to satisfy existing death-heads and still being accessible enough to bring newer fans into the genre.