The Gorgoroth debacle over the last couple of years has definitely left me very confused. See, I thought it was King (ov Hell) who was doing the majority of the writing on the later Gorgoroth stuff, which was some of the best, most extreme and interesting black metal that was going on over the last few years (that wasn’t deep, deep underground). Since Twilight of the Idols, Gorgoroth had a total monopoly on black metal extremity and just plain fucking evil. When QPAST was released, it was clear that it was not that modern Gorgoroth anymore and so I assumed that God Seed, and then after that fell apart, Ov Hell would be the thing that continued on the path that Gorgoroth had taken. The left hand path, if you will allow me such blatant silliness.
Instead, King teamed up with a black metal super group and produced an album that is only partially as good as it could be, and definitely not as extreme as I was expecting. Actually, the album is general a gigantic disappointment. Instead of continuing on the path of what later Gorgoroth had done, King sans Gaahl produced an album that is basically old school black metal riffs of the boring and generic kind. The first four tracks are really just soulless (but not like evil soulless, soulless like pop music) tracks that aren’t even remotely interesting. They slog through the boringness that makes my eyes want to bleed and just generally piss me off. Tracks like “Invoker” and “Perpetual Night” stun only with their mediocrity and lack of creativity.
On the second half things improve definitely. Starting with the track “Ghosting”, we finally get some of that atmosphere that one expects of good black metal. The track is definitely a high point on the album and really reaches its peak about a minute before the end. After that, things get a little bit more like what I was expecting: the tracks are a lot more blinding and extreme (both “Acts of Sin” and “Krigsatte Faner” are much more in the line of Twilight of the Idols or Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam) and just generally well-composed and compelling. Even the nationalistic trite “Hill Norge” (“Hail Norway”) is a pretty good track, though it’s definitely a step back from the three preceding tracks.
The production leaves a little bit to be desired, actually. There’s nothing remotely raw about this album other than some amusing clips (“fuck me with a crucifix!”) and that’s most obvious in the drums, I think. The drums are incredibly well produced, and while they may or may not be triggered, they are very high in the mix and produced cleanly.. But I think another thing is the vocals. It never occurred to me what a good vocalist Gaahl was until he was not involved in this. I sat and imagined Gaahl’s vocals over this record and it was infinitely better (though, frankly, his vocals couldn’t have fixed the first four tracks). Shagrath is OK, but he’s Dimmu Borgir to my ears and that takes a little bit away from credibility of this as the straight up evil, extreme Norwegian black metal that this should be.
All told, this record is just a big, fat disappointment. Honestly, King ov Hell should have waited until he wrote better tracks to produce this album, or even chosen to release the last four tracks as an EP. What this shows me, is that despite this album being a total disappointment, there is definitely some potential here. With the proper production, a real, dedicated band and a bit of the drive that was behind Gorgoroth despite the internal bickering, Ov Hell could be a way better project! There are some good moments here, but for the most part The Underworld Regime should go back from whence it came.