I don’t review much black metal because I’m pretty tired of the genre and there are more avid and enthusiastic reviewers at AMG who can deal with it properly. However, for unknown reasons, I took quite a shine to Aurvandil‘s 2011 opus Yearning and gave it high marks. Now we get Thrones, which was originally released last year as a limited edition cassette, though why anyone would release anything on cassette is beyond my simple mind (why not an 8-track edition or if you really want to be kvlt, go with a phonography cylinder). Now that the band has opted to give this a wider release on modern day formats, we get four songs, each running between an unmanageable 12 and 18 minutes and alternating between mega low-fi, highly repetitious, Burzum-like blasting and moody acoustic dronery. That makes for quite a laborious listen and I really struggled to sit through Thrones from start to finish the required number of times before writing this here review. Whatever they were doing on Yearning that hooked me in, that hook no longer sticks, that’s for sure.
Each of these “songs” could be an EP unto themselves and when you write compositions that run 12 minutes or longer, you need to make some effort to keep the listener onboard. Not so with Aurvandil though, as each song stuns you with highly repetitious, amazingly monotonous blasting, occasionally broken up by low energy acoustic strumming. All four pieces are painfully similar with very few interesting riffs or musical ideas for the listener’s ear to perch upon. While “For Whom Burnest Thou” starts off with a decently moody slice of October Falls-esque strumming, it eventually erupts into tedious and uninteresting low-fi blasting that would make Burzum seem accessible, and you get 12 minutes of that. In the case of “Harvest of Betrayal” one has to wade through ten minutes before a decent riff rises from the muck and although the song improves marginally for the remaining two minutes and change, you still had to wait ten minutes for the goodness to arrive so….
“Summon the Storms” verges on 20 minutes, which is completely stupid and nothing but lazy writing mixed with an inability to self-edit (Metallicaitis in industry speak), but it has a bit more adequate riffing than the earlier tracks (with the best stuff arriving fashionably late at 17:27 and again making you wait forever for something interesting to happen). It’s still a herculean slog across a landscape of sloppy, choppy blasting and fuzzy distortion that makes me realize Thrones couldn’t sound any worse even on cassette. Best of the bunch is “Ingen Lindring,” which has a slightly more compelling vibe, more tempo-shifts and the most accomplished and interesting riff-work. It doesn’t need to be anywhere near 16 minutes long, but hey, it’s their party.
Mr. Aurvandil’s guitar work has moments of quality, but these are too few and too scattered across the 50 minutes of this roiling stew of extremity for extremity’s sake. His acoustic playing is suitably atmospheric though, and more of it would have helped to break up the blast beat shellacking. His croaks and shouts are run of the mill and heavily submerged in the mix and do pretty much nothing for me. The relentless blast beatery by Fog is…relentless. That is all. Basically, these songs are all 20 pound sacks with 6 pounds of worthwhile ideas contained within.
Thrones is meant for the truly old school fans of Scandinavian blackness who like their music as opaque, impenetrable, inaccessible and shitty sounding as possible. Even by those standards though, there isn’t a whole lot going on here that’s particularly worthwhile. And back to black metal exile Steel Druhm doth happily go.
Label: Eisenwald Tonschmiede Records
Websites: Too kvlt for the interwebs
Release Dates: EU: 2014.21.04 | NA: 05.06.2014