Ragnarok – Malediction

Hanging onto the past when it comes to metal is easy as for the most part, for this style of music can be timeless. But when it comes to fan crushing over a style that resonated from a particular geographical location, in this case Norway, it becomes a bit more problematic when modern times seep in to pervert an otherwise great thing. Norwegian black metal, the 90’s stuff especially, remains as one of my most worshipped genres of metal. The atmosphere. The mystery. A handful of kids took the laws written by Quorthon and infected the crypts with such a symphonic brilliance, that it was impossible not to be changed somehow by the music. Sadly, modernization has changed things drastically in respect to Norwegian black metal. I try to keep tabs on what is arising from this once fertile land, but I keep returning to the fact that Taake and Burzum are 2 of the few torch bearers left standing who still excellently create this style of music. The rest have either become more complex and cold with death metal elements, went full on punk/NWOBHM, or are wiping their tears with their Cure tour shirts in a shoegaze haze of goth/rock/metal dreariness. There’s nothing wrong with all of that I suppose, but it fails to hit me between the ears the way it used to.

Enter Ragnarok, who are incidentally from the golden age of black metal (they started in ’94), but they embrace a harsher/cold/death-like realm of expression mentioned in my little tirade. I have to give these guys kudos for their longevity. I have checked out a handful of their albums over the years, but have failed to hang onto any of them. The songwriting seems interesting. Everything rings across as sharp and hateful. The riffs feel unpredictable (in a good way) and in that respect, keep me interested. My main problem lies in the lack of depth or atmosphere. If you would consider “hate” an atmosphere, then Ragnarok effortlessly knock it out of the park on Malediction, the bands 7th album. This strand of brutal black metal certainly has its place in the pantheon of sonic evilness, but for me, it is hitting a redundant fever pitch that nearly drove me insane in much the same way as the 1994/5 explosion of brutal Cannibal Corpse/Suffocation clone bands did. Again… it all boils down to personal preference here, for the playability of Malediction covers all the right bases and important genre definers. I can understand how this will appeal to fans of this style. On the later tracks “Fade into Obscurity” and Sword of “Damocles”, Ragnarok eases up on the panzer blast attack, allowing for more melodic riff ideas and rhythmic dynamics to sink in and offer a well rounded voice. More of this mindset would have been favorable to my ears. Another strong point is HansFyrste’s (from Svarttjern) effortless affinity for diseased sounding vocal scars. His delivery is sharp and unwavering which perfectly empowers the unrelenting nature of this album. All this aside, Malediction is a good, though rather irrelevant sounding album mainly due to the delivery. It has kept me interested for the 4 listens I’ve spent with it, but I can’t shake the fact that Ragnarok puts me in mind of a less dense and disruptive Marduk, who is a band that I feel pulls this style off far more effectively due to the catchy nature of their songwriting style. I guess I’d rather listen to the later when the mood for violence rears its bloodied head. -Marty
Agonia Records

~ by martyworm on October 16, 2012.

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