You’ve got to hand it to Throneum. Back in 2016 I took a big steaming metaphorical shit all over their Morbid Death Tales album, and less than two years later the raw death metal trio have come right back with nearly an hour of new music. And they even sent us the promo, to boot! Clearly the Polish troupe must be quite proud of their Tight Deathrope Act over Rubicon, but lingering memories of Death Tales’ shithouse production and underdeveloped songwriting left me reluctant to snag this regardless. Nonetheless even Tales showed potential with its sinister riffing, and any band that’s been around since 1996 must know something about writing a good record. But does Throneum’s ninth album successfully walk the death metal tightrope or is it better off flushed down the porcelain throne?
Surprisingly, Deathrope might just represent the biggest improvement between albums I’ve seen in my time writing for AMG. Sure, the sound hasn’t changed – imagine a mustier Sadistik Execution or a more primitive Behemoth – but nearly everything about it has vastly improved. Gone is the laughably bad production, replaced by a sound that retains its predecessors’ rawness while remaining listenable and balanced. The guitar tone is fuzzy yet commanding, and even the solos actually add to the creepy mood rather than sounding messy and superfluous. But most importantly, the songs here are longer and more developed, with notable riffs and progressions that show Throneum understand even “pure fvcking metal!” is better off when it has decent songwriting.
Take opener “Crossing the Dead River.” Beginning with one of those same ritualistic riffs employed on Tales, “River” soon breaks into a quivering crescendo and an eerily atmospheric midsection, before finishing by looping back to its opening motif. For a band whose past songwriting credits include a two minute cacophony called “The Great Project of Satan,” it’s like Throneum went and took lessons from Mozart himself. The title track takes this same formula and fares even better, powering its 8 minute runtime with a tense staccato riff and ghastly closing tremolos. The transitions are smooth and actually make the songs feel like they’re going somewhere, and through it all guitarist and vocalist ‘The Great Executor’ hollers with a desperate yell that makes me picture Nergal bound in a straitjacket and forced to watch an Ed Sheeran concert.
Those two opening tracks are easily the best on the album, but that doesn’t mean the rest are throwaway. Songs like “Enochian Lexicon II” and “The Biblical Serpent – The Master” lunge forward on chuggy Celtic Frost riffs, while 11 minute closer “Primal Words. Orphic” overcomes its oddly placed period by evoking the thunderous malevolence of Triptykon – albeit fused into a blackened death context. Likewise, tracks like “Enochian Lexicon III” and “To-Mega-Therion” feature squealing melodies that grant Deathrope a haunting aura, an effect augmented by the groaning tremolos which occasionally swoop in like a withered old ghost. Beneath it all, drummer ‘Diabolizer’ bashes with headstrong blasting and tumbling fills, giving a slightly sloppy but wholly human feel to the proceedings.
Deathrope isn’t perfect. Executor’s vocal delivery is monotonous, songs like “Enochian Lexicon I” are bloated with rote riffs, and while there’re plenty of distinct ideas throughout, there aren’t enough to justify nearly every track exceeding 5 minutes. That said, I can’t overstate what a vast improvement this is over Death Tales. The songs here actually feel like songs rather than halfhearted ideas lazily strewn together, the production fosters a ghoulish atmosphere without making things sound like they were recorded in a shed, and Throneum even offer some truly great riffs now and then. For a band with members active throughout the Polish underground, this is the album I’d expect such scene veterans to make. It has flaws, sure, but it’s far from Illud Divinum Insanus levels of embarrassing, and in all anyone looking for a primal death metal record with a bit of blackened miasma is sure to enjoy.