Released: 2012, Agonia
Despite a long history of line-up changes and label changes, the Black Belgians still forge on and present the gathered masses their 9th manifesto, OBSIDIUM. And despite another label change, the band is on Agonia Records now, Enthroned has the same lineup for two albums in a row, which is something that hasn’t happened in about 10 years. I suppose this is not a huge issue as Nornagest has been the primary composer for quite some time but I feel a band gels a little better than a ‘project’ of hired guns or the proverbial revolving door.
OBSIDIUM follows in the same path as the last album, delving more into mystical themes and ancient languages, as the band evolution away from pure Black Metal is essentially complete. Don’t misunderstand, it’s still Black and evil as hell but Enthroned have abandoned the trappings of early Black Metal. I don’t mind at all, the three (four including this one) albums have been part of what I consider the third phase of the bands career.
OBSIDIUM continues to show depth and maturity without sacrificing intensity. There are a few slower parts, for example the choral-like chants in the slower middle section of ‘Oblivious Shades’ which add more character and dynamics to the songs. For the most parts the drumming remains pretty relentless but not always descending into blasts. The keyboards are used sparingly but are present for hints of atmosphere.
The band now own their own recording studio so the sound is pretty consistent with the last album and as always the album clocks in at about 40 minutes for the nine songs. Ninth album, nine songs…it’s a powerful number in the occult. The guitar tone drenches the listener in blackness. The vocals are mixed quite far up front which I don’t mind, I like the vocal attack and many BM vocalists get mixed so far back that their hiss gets lost in translation. There are some interesting things going on with various backing vocals on the track ‘Petraoleum Salvia’ that also bring forwards new shades of black atmosphere. 'Horns Aflame' stands out as well.
It would be a stretch to say that ENTHRONED are doing anything exceptional or amazingly innovative but the bands core strengths and increased commitment to better song-writing make this one of their better efforts in recent memory, almost as if they have, finally, fully hit their stride, progressive enough to be interested but committed to the precepts of Black Metal.