Nothing in this world is as good as blackened thrash metal. In the book of Z, it is the pinnacle of not just metal, but music in general. While Australian acts like Gospel of the Horns and the fukkin almighty Deströyer 666 do it best, that doesn’t mean the rest of the world has nothing to offer. Finland’s Urn are one such band who have been reliable in keeping my head banging over the years, even if their straightforward take on blackened thrash was never enough to bring them to the big leagues. After three albums in the 2000s, the group lost some members and released no new material until vocalist/guitarist/bassist Sulphur enlisted members of fellow Finns Evil Angel1 for 2017’s The Burning. That album represented a change of approach, with the band adopting a hookier and more melodic style that I enjoyed a lot despite it being bogged down a bit by consistently mid-paced tempos and formulaic songwriting. Now with another new lineup behind him, Sulphur is ready to unleash fifth album (and Season of Mist debut) Iron Will of Power upon the masses. I could only pray Will would finally show Urn unleashing the powerhouse record I’d always hoped they would.
And by the will of the Dark Lord, my prayers have been answered. On the whole Will is a much more aggressive, mature, and interesting album than almost anything Urn have released in the past. This is cutthroat blackened thrash that forgoes the hummable Viking melodies of The Burning in favor of vicious riffs and ravenous rhythms that bare their teeth and snarl like the bastard offspring of Deströyer 666. Opener “Downfall of Idols” even sounds like a lost D666 track, with its pounding progression punctuated2 by cries of “On your knees!” before settling into a nice snappy beat in the second half. Second track “Malignant Strange Vision” keeps the energy going with a fast pace and sharp melodic tremolos that call to mind Desaster or even Ketzer‘s impeccable Satan’s Boundaries Unchained. Through it all wild solos squeal gloriously wherever they can fit themselves in, while Sulphur’s gruff rasp sounds commanding and wicked while remaining wholly intelligible.
In addition to sharpening their sound, Urn have incorporated plenty of diversity. Third track “Funeral Oath” is entirely differently than the opening duo, barreling forward on a punky pace before hitting a chorus that has a strangely singalong feel to it. “Prayers” and “Demonlord” are both stomping melodic marches, the former standing out with its subtle use of choir and the latter featuring a terrifically devilish and catchy verse melody. Unfortunately it turns out these stomping tempos occur a little too often in Will‘s second half, with “Hunted” and closer “Will to Triumph” featuring similar rhythms. Nonetheless both are still very good songs, with “Will” being particularly enjoyable thanks to its bellowing clean vocal hook that makes it sound like something from Bathory‘s Hammerheart era.
Yet by far the most interesting track is “Spears of Light.” Beginning with a melodic riff that sounds like Dark Tranquillity‘s “Monochromatic Stains,” the song soon incorporates more bellowing clean vocals before breaking everything down in the second half with a cry of “Raise hell!” and a thrashy, crunchy as fukk riff that sounds like something from a goddamn Enforcer song. It’s an awesome track, though it may have been even stronger had it waited a little longer to introduce the clean singing. The band’s songwriting could stand to be refined elsewhere as well, with some of these songs still repeating themselves a tad much for my liking. Fortunately the production is absolutely stellar, with lively drums, a rich sound,3 and a guitar tone that sounds like a grenade launcher strapped to a flamethrower wielded by a dragon-human hybrid.
While there’s still a bit of room for fine tuning, overall there’s a lot to love here. With Iron Will of Power, Urn have gone from a decent underground band to one of the most exciting in their subgenre. This sits alongside Alcoholocaust‘s debut as one of the best blackened thrash albums of the year and is guaranteed to please fans of D666, Desaster, Nocturnal, or any other act of the blackened and thrashy persuasion. Bottom line: buy it, play it loud, and BANG YOUR FUKKIN HEAD!!!