Order – The Gospel Review

It’s no secret that I like Mayhem.1 Since Slayer disbanded, they’re my favorite active metal band. Each of their “eras” has offered something unique, special, memorable, and great. I’ve been listening to the legendary Deathcrush a lot lately, and I’ve never found anything quite like it. Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned that Norway’s Order existed and featured Manheim (drums on Deathcrush) and Messiah (some vocals on Deathcrush). Their first record, Lex Amentiae, was decent. I remember enjoying it enough, but not having much of a desire to return to it. Part of this was my own being a bit unreasonable—I wanted a sequel to Deathcrush, but Lex Amentiae came out nearly three decades after Mayhem’s classic EP.

The Gospel isn’t a Deathcrush sequel either, but it is a quality exercise in black metal primitivism. It’s also closer in length to Deathcrush, clocking in at a crisp thirty-three minutes—nearly ten minutes shorter than its predecessor. What the listener gets here is a mixture of Celtic Frost riffing and Second Wave melodies, with Manheim delivering a pounding, often simplistic drumming assault, channeling Bob Bagchus nicely. Messiah’s voice has held up well, having a bit of strain and perhaps audible pain to it, almost a spiritual companion to Maniac in the Blasphemer era of Mayhem. There’s the odd reference (intentional or not) to Mayhem too, with opener “Pneuma” seeming intent on being a counterpart to Deathcrush’s “(Weird) Manheim” with an eerie, unsettling piano melody. Closer “Pneuma II” essentially makes a hellish, dissonant version of its eponymous predecessor’s melody and includes some abrasive noise and vocals over top, as if Order decided to speed up “Vortex Void of Inhumanity” and superimpose it over a demented “Pneuma.”

If you like your black metal primitive and mostly mid-paced, you’ll like what Order is doing here. The Gospel is a superior record to Lex Amentiae in every respect, being more focused and more memorable. “Descend” toys around with an interesting Immolation-esque (Majesty and Decay era) riff and merges it effectively with Second Wave black metal. “It Burns” is probably the catchiest number here, beginning on an effective merger of a quintessentially Frosty string bend that is quickly overlaid with a nice Second Wave melody. “My Pain” made me wish that Order would let loose with the speed more, as its transitions from mid-paced heavy riffing to nearly unhinged thrashing recapture part of what made Deathcrush so special. “Tomb” also utilizes speed effectively. Both of these songs appear at the tail end of The Gospel, which I found to be smart sequencing.

I find myself wishing that The Gospel sounded worse. The production is chunky and modern, but I can’t escape the feeling that the anachronistic battering here might be better served by something a bit lower-fi.  When “It Burns” ends with something approaching the intro to Bathory’s “The Return of Darkness and Evil,” I was hoping for a burst of speed akin to that but was met with a Soulburn-style take on that same riff in the title track. It’s a good song, and the transition admittedly works quite well, but this moment always reminded me of the speed that doesn’t often appear here. That said, I enjoy when the “lurching jog” tempos rear their heads because they’re made more interesting thanks to Manheim’s drumming and Anders Odden’s consistently clever use of guitar layers. “Bringer of Salt” is a good and memorable example of this.

I appreciate what Order is doing on The Gospel. It sounds like they’re trying to take black metal back into the primordial ooze from whence it came but drag some Second Wave sensibilities with them on the journey. I like the blunt approach to extremity here and the consistently smart exploitation of simplicity. I want to be clear and say that Order are no slouches on their instruments—Manheim’s drumming is unique for the style (he’s wilder than Bob Bagchus), Odden’s guitars are smartly played and written, and Stu Manx’s bass playing knows when to bolster the riff and when to wander a little bit for effect. It’s a well-written record, and its few-too-many interlude and intro moments come across as a charming commitment to an idea instead of gratuitous—like an old cult classic. Perhaps Order did capture a bit of that old Deathcrush magic after all.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Listenable Records
Website: facebook.com/orderofficial
Releases Worldwide: October 1st, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. You do? You should check out their Live in Leipzig album. – Holdeneye
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