Relentlessly picking on black metal bands whose members opt for anonymity is a favorite pastime of ours here at Angry Metal Guy, but it kinda sorta makes sense when you look at the practice from the band’s perspective. When trying to break into the scene, withholding one’s identity means that critics have only the music to go on, and if the musicians happen to suck, it eliminates any possibility of cred shredding in the eyes of the masses. Germany’s Thron don’t have a thing to worry about in this regard; silhouettes as band members aside, their stripped-down blend of black metal and melodeath lacks so much as a hint of pretentiousness and is totally effective in its simplicity. In fact, it’s good enough that we’ll even spare them the shame of getting unicorn’d… This time.
Thron’s fusion of genres plays like a cross between the dissonant, cascading chords of Watain and the icy velocity of Dissection, and is gratifying from the first listen. Relentless melodeath drum patterns provide an energetic backdrop for vicious vocals and melodic tremolo riffs that toe the line between cartoonish evil and genuine diabolical intent, and the formula just works. Much of this debut’s success can be attributed to song variety and structure; some tracks lean more towards the blackened end of the spectrum (“Orphaned By the Undertaker,” taking the crown for Song Title o’ the Month) while others dabble in traditional death metal (“Bloodfeast”), and all of them stray far enough from traditional structures without coming across as meandering. The enjoyment to be derived from Thron is admittedly surface level only as there’s not much left to discover after the first couple of listens, but as a meat ‘n’ potatoes offering it absolutely delivers the goods.
Strangely, Thron‘s shortest tracks are back-loaded onto its second half, with cuts averaging around six minutes on the front end and four minutes on the back. The shift to less complex structures is an odd but not unwelcome twist, as it gives the record a unique sense of progression that I don’t recall encountering elsewhere. The first track of the record (“Purified In Fire”), however, doesn’t feel like it has enough ideas to justify its length; the riff well runs dry early on, making the last couple of minutes feel like a retread. Aside from a minute or two that could have been snipped from this cut, the entirety of the album kept me engaged, and the riffs are all so good that I wouldn’t even consider those couple of minutes of “Purified in Fire” to be a weak link so much as a slight hump to overcome before diving into the remainder of the record.
A band as straightforward as Thron could typically be expected to produce 3.0 material at best, but there are enough great moments and riffs scattered throughout that really push Thron over the line into 3.5 territory for me. The tempo hike that properly kicks off “The Blacklist” supremely kicks ass, the blackened waltz of “The Evolution of Satan” is infectiously fun, and the deliberate stomp of “Blackest Hell” delivers a thrashy twist akin to Toxic Holocaust. The Suffocation riff on “Bloodfeast” that leads into the deathiest tremolo run Dissection never wrote earns special mention too, as it makes me want to throw up the horns like a middle schooler who still thinks it’s acceptable to do so outside the confines of a metal gig. The production is nothing to sneeze at, either, as Thron ticks in at a surprisingly spacious DR8 and sports a good guitar tone well suited for Thron’s melding of genres. The mix is also good despite a bass that’s a tad obscured, and the drums sound a bit thin, but overall the production left a positive impression on me.
Thron is the kind of underground black metal that’s at high risk of being (and almost was) easily overlooked when it shows up in the promo pool, but after weeks of reviewing power metal I was more than willing to give an obscure black metal record a shot. I’m very happy I did. A surprising find for so early in the year, Thron breaks the mold of joyless second wave worship in favor of blistering, blackened fun. It isn’t exactly sophisticated, but if it can sink its claws into you as it did for me, you’ll find there’s much to like and little to object to here. Nice job Thron, whoever the hell you are.