Another day, another blackened death release from Hells Headbangers. It’s not that I don’t like what the label puts out — the past few years have seen great material from Destruktor and Profanatica, among others. But it’s albums like Morbid Death Tales that make me wonder if some bands just utilize a filthy sound and the “no trends, just pure metal!” aesthetic as an excuse for churning out music which is half-assed, knowing full well that members of their “kvlt” fanbase will rabidly devour it regardless. And while Throneum offer listeners a decent atmosphere along with a few clever riffs throughout these 32 minutes, those positives are grossly overshadowed by dull songwriting, half-hearted performances, and a production job that makes Transylvanian Hunger sound like Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
As you probably expect, Throneum specialize in the type of satanic, raw, and guttural extreme metal that could have been released at any point in the past 15 years. Though this is the Polish trio’s seventh full-length since their 1996 formation, Death Tales actually shows the band somehow sounding even more unpolished and primitive than they did on their previous record, 2011’s Death Throne Entities. Those seeking memorability need not apply – this is dirty and barbaric to a fault. Not unlike a more bestial and less thrashy version of label-mates Perversor, Throneum carry out their antics via churning downtuned riffs, tightly bound melodies, and drumming which varies between blasting and sloppy battering. It’s all best exemplified on three-part opener “Darkness of Another Circle,” which proves a decent start with its quick, ritualistic-sounding notes interspersed with more typical shuffling chords. Though the production forces his vocals in the background, vocalist/guitarist ‘The Great Executor’ is also quite impressive and frightening here with his vomited, reverb-laced roar.
And while the remaining eight tracks largely stay within this vein, there are a few notable moments worth mentioning. Tracks like “The Starry Dust Inside Me” and “Cacus” provide smidges of variety with their tribal beats, with “Cacus” utilizing a doomy, shuffling pace and the work of guest vocalist ‘Mark of the Devil’ (Cultes des Ghoules) to conjure a densely foreboding atmosphere. Likewise, the church choir samples in aforementioned “Darkness” and closer “Psalm18(17)1” set a haunting mood and give things a perverse religious feel.
Unfortunately every positive here is outweighed by something totally awful. While some of the riffs are surprising in how simple yet sinister they sound, by album’s end they all begin to sound far too similar – and those are just the few which can be remembered. More often, Executor simply juggles through dark-sounding chords while the drums hammer along at a quick tempo, without regard for things like climaxes or actual songwriting. On tracks like the 61-second “Withered Weeds” and the two-minute “The Great Project of Satan,” it doesn’t even sound like the songs are finished – rather, I get the impression the band just lost interest and stopped playing halfway through. The occasional solos are also laughably mediocre, vaguely recalling Trey Azagthoth if he accidentally smashed his fingers during a home improvement project. Hell, even some of the song titles are poor: “The Great Project of Satan” and “The Starry Dust Inside Me” sound like something brought to band practice by a fifteen-year-old who just heard Behemoth for the first time last week. And though I enjoy Executor’s vocals, his unwavering delivery only adds to the onslaught of monotony.
The production is raw and muffled, providing listeners a guided tour of an audio shithouse where muddy guitars and pattering drums are forced together in the living room while the vocals are recorded somewhere in the backyard. Sure it adds to the atmosphere Throneum are going for, but – as is the case with some other bands of their ilk – it also feels a bit like a ruse for disguising just how little is going on musically. All told, I get what this band is doing and I understand why there’s an audience for this. But regardless of their lack of commercial ambition and desire to stay “trve,” certain aspects of Death Tales are just abysmal to the point where I’m sure even hardcore fans will concede there is far better stuff out there. In the future more developed songs, improved production, notable riffs, and halfway-decent lead-work would be a good start. For now, even fans of the bestial need not waste their time.