|Review: Strandhogg - Ritualistic Plague (Evangelical Death Apotheosis)|
|Ritualistic Plague (Evangelical Death Apotheosis)|
Label: Pagan Records
Year released: 2009
Genre: Black Metal
Review online: April 3, 2009
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
for:Ritualistic Plague (Evangelical Death Apotheosis)
Ritualistic Plague (Evangelical Death Apotheosis) is Strandhogg's debut long player and is a half hour of no holds barred, balls out Black Metal in the Marduk school of blasting and blasphemy. This style of music is often maligned as so-called "norsecore" by those purists of the old school, and the term is familiar enough for an album to be judged by it, so when I say that this album is pure norsecore then you can safely feel as though you know what you can expect. Nevertheless I'm going to crap on about Ritualistic Plague a little longer as it is better than most of the bands out there playing music like this.
There is no fucking around here as the album kicks straight into a fat chunky riff with some deep, sonorous growls lurking in the background, just below the surface. It's an effective introduction to the album, and prepares you for the all-out assault that follows on its heels. There is an element of Death Metal on display throughout this pummeling exercise in precise riffage, but the atmosphere is total Black Metal, evil to the core. The tracks follow a template laid out by the likes of Marduk and Dark Funeral with high speed, aggressive riffs and vocals that occasionally slow down to bludgeon for a second before slamming the pedal back down to the metal. "Coronation of the New God" adds some keyboards to the mix for a while, and it's probably a good idea they kept them to a minimum as they don't really work. Album closer "Motuus Evangelium" (even the track titles stick to the template) slows it down dramatically as it meanders along at a middling pace. The riffs aren't as strong as when Strandhogg up the speed, but the vocals here are totally insane, raving, screaming and growling with demonic intensity. It's a crazy end to the album and, if it mixed up the pace a little, perhaps incorporating some riffs from the album's shorter songs, it could have been a masterpiece.
Ritualistic Plague boasts a powerful production with all instruments ably accounted for, and while the guitars don't quite have the presence they do in, say, World Funeral, the sound overall is very similar. The bass in particular manages to grab your attention just by sheer force of will as it rumbles beneath the guitars and drums like an approaching Shai-Hulud. The vocals are all over the place in the best possible way, slipping between coarse shouts, blackened screeching and deathy growls. In places they take on an urgent tone of sickening rage similar to Arioch of Funeral Mist although they are not as inventive or all out berserk as his performances.
With Ritualistic Plague Strandhogg have achieved what they set out to do – bash your fucking face in! The album is about as original as any other Marduk clone but is also much better than most of them. It is punishing, brutal and has that element of personality that will set them apart from so many sound-alikes. However, given their sound, they are very narrowly selecting their audience because the bottom line is, if you don't like that non-stop blasting style of Black Metal made famous by Dark Funeral and their ilk, then you will not like this either. It is pretty straight forward norsecore-styled Black Metal that, while not bringing anything new or exciting to the table, is delivered with enough conviction and skill to be an enjoyable distraction for a half hour here and there.
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