Originally written by Erik Thomas
Enthroned is generally the kind of second tier, post Darkthrone, corpse paint wearing, production starved black metal I don’t care for, so when given this to review my eyes rolled harder than a teenage girl who has just been grounded. However, I gritted my teeth and set to work.
While ‘pleasantly surprised’ seems a clichéd term, it fits my response to this album perfectly. The album is exactly what I expected; thin guitars, evil screeching and synth less blast beats abound, but what Enthroned lack in presentation values, they actually make up for with some pretty blazing riffs and solos. The restricted grandiosity of the album is delivered by some deceptively melodic, yet seething riffs rather than over dramatic pomp and orchestration. The vortex of staccato riffs is expectedly lightweight, but makes up for sonic girth with a scathing intensity. Granted, the Belgian Enthroned is never going to be as extolled as their Norwegian peers, but with this, their 6th album and within the pantheons of primal black metal, Enthroned are worthy of at least a mention with their considerable discography and unflinching style.
Towards the Skullthrone of Satan, was the last I heard of this lot, so I can’t really tell you how this compares to there last three efforts, as Skullthrone put me off enough to not bother seeking out any further albums, but suffice to say, Xes… has left a far better impression. It’s got serviceable production that isn’t truly grating, sounding somewhat like Old Man’s Child’s first offering, but the ravaging riffs of “Last Will” or the brooding pace of “Blacker Than Black” could use some Abyss Studio knob twiddling to render them more powerful. Screamer Lord Sabathan is the overall disconcerting element sounding like he’s singing into a tin can in a cave 200 yards away, but truth be told it fits the stark nature of Enthroned’s music. With my limited experience of this band, the somewhat delicate, acoustic intro to the seven minute “Vortex of Confusion” took me be surprise as it develops into a furiously sweeping, elegantly evil….erm, vortex. Even more patient character is displayed for the instrumental of “A.M.S.G” with some subtle programming and slight industrial lean, which shows the growth of the band without completely selling out to cyber metal as many of their black metal brethren have done (Thyrane, Mörk Gryning). As if to offset the prior tracks experimental lean, “Demon’s Claw” explodes with a more traditional black metal venom, while ‘Night Stalker” delivers the albums ‘catchiest’ riff, that’s a blisteringly, acidic yet melodic track, that again, compared to my past experience with this band, took me slightly by surprise. Another 7 minute track, “Seven Plagues, Seven Wrath” even features some decent clean vocals, which truly shocks me considering the bland music featured on Skullthrone.
Xes Haereticum is by no means the next Transylvanian Hunger or In the Nightside Eclipse, but if you are a black metal fan, it certainly warrants your attention between church burnings and posing with garden implements in the local graveyard.