Slagmaur convey a theatrical, almost light-hearted, evilness that feels, sometimes, like a parodic jab at bands who take kvlt-evilness a bit too seriously. Thill Smitts Terror is the third full-length by these Norwegian oddballs. Quirks and peculiarities enter at a rapid pace and leave as swiftly as they arrive: disembodied, out-of-tune, and barely audible clippings of schizophrenic vocals strike then disappear; choral eeriness grows and fades; samples of screams, grunts, growls and cries expand and takeover the mix; and a general splatter gun approach of uneasy discord defines Thill Smitts Terror. It’s chaotic and difficult to grasp without being lightning fast and completely indiscernible. Instead, it manages to create a sense of mid-paced discomfort by not really following the guidelines set out in the How to Make Extreme Metal handbook. One does get a feeling, however, that Slagmaur have created this album from the outside in, focusing on eccentricities before addressing foundation and structure. When you exist on a higher plain of existence, who needs structure and stability!
Thill Smitts Terror opens with a Sergei Prokofiev “Dance of the Knights” style classical instrumental that, in relation to the rest of the album, fits like a foot in a glove. “Drummer of Tedworth” is the first proper track, a mid-paced cyber industrial track that rumbles and churns with a mechanical haziness. Slices of corrugated riff patterns and piston-like drumming, letting off steam and rusty background fuzz, make up most of the song: a consistent force. The vocals, though, are a lot more malleable and unrestricted. Odious gargles, modulated spoken word interludes (reminiscent of Abe from Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssee), chants of a Gregorian nature, and more common mid-ranged growls and snarls fluctuate and emerge without preface. Their unpredictable nature is both an exciting feature and an annoyance.
A peculiar tone to the album and to the mix carries through from beginning to end. The wash of guitars has an icy Burzum sharpness that gives the music a malicious and recognizable edge. Obfuscating this icy sheen is a bombardment of leaden industrial sounds. The heavy yet measured drums trudge and slam consistently; this isn’t flashy or technical but it’s effective in a self-assured, foot-stomping sort of way. A fuzzed crackling, like that of a TV, trails much of the album like a headache. It rids the album of clarity, making it a claustrophobic affair that might make you reach for the power-off button. However, it somewhat intensifies the strange vibe that carries through the album.
To return to the Burzum and the second-wave black-metal sound, a lot of the riff patterns here borrow their frosty sharpness. “Werewolf” follows this mold, but the guitars don’t take center stage. Instead, the stomping drumming surges and intensifies as the song progresses, annihilating the pretty black-metal pattern by consuming the mix with its hollow thump. The industrial led discord intensifies as the song progresses; its descent into an amorphous mass works here, but not necessarily throughout a whole album.
“Bestemor Sang Djevelord” follows a similar theme, although faint glimmers of a piano attempt to break into the madhouse and change things up. However once inside there’s not much room for them to really make a striking difference. The opening riffs fall flat and drag the song into forgettable territories. The bass-heavy bellow of the mix also creates an off-putting atmosphere. Unease is created following the annihilation of my innocent ear-drums due to an uncomfortable wash of sharp background noise rather than unease created through creepy and clever song-writing.
The peculiar flourishes of Thill Smitts Terror are decorative and the core structure of the album isn’t strong enough allow these decorations to really shine. Songs largely follow a similar format: guitars float at a high altitude, searching for prey, as drums and bass dwell at a subterranean level, throbbing and clouding the mix. It’s good stuff for two or three tracks, but there’s just not enough variety. When the guitars do take on a chunkier mid-ranged tone, as in the fifth song “Hekeskritt”, things do change for the better, but this section was brief and soon forgotten. Slagmaur share a similar sound to Terra Tenebrosa, but the difference between the two is in the composition of albums. Terra Tenebrosa utilise lulls, silences, and spaciousness a lot more tactfully. Slagmaur lack this balance. There’s potential here, but too much falls short.