Five years ago, Grier became more than a twinkle in AngryMetalGuy.com’s eye. Forever after, AMG was subject to the King of Clickbait. And, since then, you poor bastards have had to read the sometimes depressing, sometimes passionate, sometimes right and sometimes wrong moments of my career. In these early days of the Coming of Grier, there arose such an album that it still finds regular rotation for this ole Dok Tor. First, for its content—old-school, Scandinavian black metal. Second, for resurrecting a master of the black metal arts—Aldrahn. I loved The Deathtrip‘s Deep Drone Master and still love it today. Not for its originality but, rather, for its commitment and flawless execution of ’90s Norwegian black metal. It wasn’t until I heard it that I realized how much I missed Aldrahn’s voice. But, Aldrahn has vanished once again. In his place stands Kvohst (ex-Code, ex-Void, and ex-Dødheimsgard). A powerhouse in his own right, Kvohst steps in to take over The Deathtrip like he did when you came into Dødheimsgard. And, as it was for DHG when he took over vocals, Kvohst’s voice represents a new era for The Deathtrip.1 But what will this era bring to the table?
That’s an interesting question because there’s more to the genre than “Transylvanian Hunger.”2 And there’s even more now if you consider the bajillion sub-genres. But even in the old days, you had the classic stylings of Mayhem and Darkthrone, the icy ferocity of Immortal, the crushing hate of Marduk and Gorgoroth, the melodic nature of Dissection, and the keyboard symphonics of Emperor. Deep Drone Master stuck to the classic tremolos and atmospheres of Mayhem and Darkthrone, adding diversity to the vox only as Aldrahn can. But Demon Solar Totem is not like its predecessor. In place of the forty-three-minute debut, whose longest song was the seven-minute closer, stands its epic fifty-five-minute follow-up. An album that is unafraid of six-to-eleven minute song lengths. Hell, it’s an album unafraid of anything. Including dabbling in the slower, more-melodic and atmospherical directions of the genre. And it’s something I wasn’t prepared for at all.
That’s right, if you were expecting another Deep Drone Master (like I was), you ain’t gonna get it. And that becomes obvious in the first four minutes of the title-track opener. And then it becomes even more obvious when the vocals appear. Vocals that are wholly different than Aldrahn’s. They may include the typical shrieks and desperate screams, but they also include haunting cleans and cathedral-like chants. The latter inclusions being something that you’ll hear throughout the album. Apart from that, a ten-minute opener is a bold fucking move for The Deathtrip.
Then there’s the closer, “Awaiting a New Maker.” The boldest of them all. While “Surrender to a Higher Power” achieves similar goals as the opener, but in less the time, the closer goes for broke. With an eleven-plus-minute runtime, this track takes everything the band has achieved on the previous six tracks and crams it all into one. It’s drawn-out and epic, building a black metal beauty with an explosive climax. And though Kvohst’s addition of clean vocals litters The Deathtrip sound these days, the ones he sports on the closer take it to the next level. That said, “Abraxas Mirrors” wins the award for taking that gentle voice the furthest. Though it’s aggressive at first, this track settles into an epic chant-fest that builds and breaks much like its successor, “Awaiting a New Maker.” But it does it with a beauty that no other on the album can touch.
In general, Demon Solar Totem prefers the slower stylings of the genre to the more “upbeat” nature of the debut. Even with pieces like “Angels Fossils,” “Vintage Telepathy,” and “Enter Spectral Realms,” the old-school riffs cruise at low gears and lend their weight to atmosphere rather than breaking bones. Beyond the hard-accenting, Attila-like vox of “Enter Spectral Realms” and the sweeping pace changes of “Angel Fossils”—whose details you’d lose on a less-dynamic record—these songs are pretty much like the others. Which works fine for an album with the kind of dynamics Demon Solar Totem has. But, in comparison to the band’s debut record, this new one isn’t as fun and memorable as I’d hoped.
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Svart and Profound Lore Records
Websites: the-deathtrip.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/thedeathtripblackmetal
Releases Worldwide: November 15th, 2019
- If you look at Dødheimsgard‘s catalog, Aldrahn and Kvohst have opposite roles to that of The Deathtrip. While Aldrahn is the key vocalist of DHG, with Kvohst stepping in for 2007’s Supervillian Outcast, Kvohst is credited as the first singer for The Deathtrip—before any recordings. If this is true, that means Aldrahn stepped in for Kvohst and the latter was the original voice of the band. ↩
- Is there though? – Steel Skeptic ↩