Gorgoroth – Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam Review

Captain’s take:

What’s On Tap: Shelve your pitchforks and torches Gorgoroth haters – Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam is an excellent example of some seriously abusive Norwegian extreme metal.

This record is mean as hell and it’s gonna make you want to hate – hate your boss, hate your neighbors, hate the tailgating prick behind you, hate the fat, old woman paying with coupons in front of you, hate the birkenstock-clad douche standing next to you, hate the Fast and Furious, bass pumping dolt pulling up beside you, and of course, hate yourself for waiting so long to vent so much HATRED! Seriously folks, I don’t recall a time when a record has made me feel so delightfully angry. Maybe the timing is right, or maybe Gorgoroth has finally figured out the perfect formula for malignity, but Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam is a bloody hateful record. I damn near hissed and snarled at a woman I felt was invading my space at the deli counter at my local grocery store whilst listening to this pig, and I felt glorious because of it.

So, what’s to blame for possibly the most misanthropic Gorgoroth record to date? Could it be because of Infernus and Gaahl’s legal frustrations? Or perhaps (newly departed) King ov Hell’s recent ‘ideological head butting’ with his band mates? Both are certainly possibilities, but one element that’s definitely adding to the visceral feel of this record is the addition of session drummer extraordinaire, Frost, to the mix. For those who were disappointed with this man’s seemingly ‘one-hand-tied-behind-his-back’ performance on the latest Satyricon record, you’re gonna love his work on Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam. Frost has effectively breathed a new rancorous breath into the Christianity-bashing corpse of Gorgoroth, and this record gives the man plenty of room to flex all his drumming tentacles.

At its root, this album is a logical progression for Gorgoroth, and it’s obvious these guys have left the seemingly trendy path of ‘black-n-roll’ for their peers to travel, choosing instead to continue forward with the menacing, blackened, extreme metal styling they displayed on their impressive 2003 release, Twilight of The Idols. The majority of the songs found on A.M.S.G. follow a pattern of spotlighting Frost’s manic drumming and Infernus’ hellish shredding, but also feature some really solid, hammer-swinging breakdowns to get you itching to smote all those unfortunate enough to be in your immediate vicinity. “Wound Upon Wound” and “Carving A Giant” set the quickened pace of the record perfectly, with the opener laying down a ripe, head-banging riff a mere 1-minute in, and the latter pushing more of a sweeping riff pattern throughout the songs’ entirety. The crushing “God Seed (Twilight of The Idols)”, and closer, “Prosperity and Beauty”, both have a more epic feel (in sound, not length), bringing to mind At The Heart of Winter era Immortal, and flash Gaahl’s absolutely seething vocals beautifully (you’ll definitely be double fisting imaginary grapefruits and turning your grizzled face to the heavens when you hear Gaahl scream “stain me with blooood! GOD SEEEEED!”). The fourth track,“Sign of An Open Eye”, stands as the albums’ only respite from the speedy, manic attack as it lumbers forth with slow, repetitive riffing, spooky keyboard backdrops, and Gaahl’s frozen spoken word, but the reprieve is very short lived. Track five, “White Seed”, and its’ follower, “Exit”, molest with a nearly schizophrenic touch as they display a strange dichotomy of absolutely flailing battery mingled with an almost gingerly strummed guitar at times. Both songs eventually settle into a more traditional structure, but the deranged spatterings explicitly ensure the midpoint of the album does not sag.

I have to dig fairly deep to find fault with Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam, but I do have a couple issues. First of all, after a three-year wait, a 30-minute album definitely feels short (although I can certainly appreciate the fact the band did not load the record with wanky, unnecessary filler). Secondly, while the overall production/mix of the record is quite solid, especially when compared to Gorgoroth’s early works, there are some holes. I’d like to actually hear King’s bass work instead of having it mixed deep behind the whirling wall of guitars and drums, for example. Also, I think Gaahl has a deliciously wicked voice…I’d love to hear it in a more natural state and higher in the mix.

And there you have it folks; 30-minutes of seriously hateful, blackened metal, delivered by the Norwegians people love to hate. It seems like every metal forum I’ve come across in the last few years has had some sort of reference to Gorgoroth pissing someone off. They may not thank their crowds, they may not smile and chuckle during interviews, and they may find themselves involved in some unsavory situations now and again, but holy shit do these guys know how to create an odious record, at least according to this reviewer. Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam is a perfect example of an extreme band growing and maturing without doing away with the core element that helped build their notoriety – hatred. Highly recommended for fans of the band, and for those needing to vent some pent up anger.

Jim Brandon’s take:

This has developed into an interesting year as far as black metal goes, and it’s about fucking time. There have been a handful of specific releases I’ve personally been awaiting anxiously from Satyricon, Keep Of Kalessin, Dissection, Ihsahn, Darkthrone, as well as the upcoming Blut Aus Nord, Crimson Moon, and Mayhem. Of the first five albums listed, only two of them, Ihsahn’s & Darkthrone’s, have kept strong legs, and the other three either disappointed from the start and have failed to gain ground, or simply lost their luster very quickly. For me, two out of five doesn’t cut it, and so the search continued, somewhat unsatisfied, until a couple short weeks ago when satisfaction came by way of an old, estranged acquaintance, Gorgoroth.

Seeing how their last two albums were rather underwhelming to this ear, I was extremely hesitant to plunk down the loot at MetalHaven for Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam until one of the guys there raved about it to me. It was the best money I’ve spent with a second guess attached to it this year, bar none. This CD has continued to sauté my brain each and every time it gets tossed into the stereo and amplified to an obnoxious level. Glorious indeed. With punishing malice, Ad Majorem…unleashes one track after another of ferociously performed, sacrilegious black metal without a moment of filler. This is a calculated, no-holds-barred exercise in invigorated Gorgoroth blasphemy, which leaves many of their compatriots in the dust on numerous levels.

The songwriting here is utterly engrossing, each of the 8 tracks are roughly four minutes in length, establishing a clear, concise point of view, which is nothing short of a sophisticated mauling. Blunt, direct arrangements swarm with blazing tremolo riffs blended among razor-sharp staccato clusters, and much fist-banging epic mid-paced marching to thrash along to. Where Armada falls short due to inconsistent songwriting, and Now, Diabolical, and Reinkaos falter due to the uneventful nature of the mid-paced material, Gorgoroth keep the arrangements interesting even when the pace slows, and don’t hold back any creative energy overall throughout this disc with a vicious array of riff selections. None of the songs are interchangeable, there is definitely a specific pattern established with structured flow overall, and the material is engaging, industriously performed, and technically sound.

Heat radiates from this album, and commands attention while listening. The hypnotic drone of “Sign Of An Open Eye” lulls listeners into a false sense of comfort before the deliberate, scathing “White Seed” launches into a torrent of blasts and wild riffing leading into a pensive, deceptive midsection, and then returning to more chaos to abruptly close the number. “Exit” is one of the fastest, yet most varied tracks, and doesn’t become redundant due to a fluctuation of reclusive harmonies, while “Untamed Forces” features deathly, nearly guttural vocals rumbling beneath a humming wall of pulsing rhythmic waves. Closing track “Prosperity And Beauty” ends the disc on an epic, triumphant note, which doesn’t leave the listener hanging thanks to its definitive, momentous climax. Addictive in its design, and nearly viral in its tenacity, this album virtually demands an immediate additional complete listen as soon as it finishes. Dozens of spins later, and the light of burnout is still nowhere to be seen.

This may not be the ultimate Gorgoroth album, and it’s no advancement of the style, but it’s probably the best release from the band since Destroyer. The production is dirty but decipherable, the mix strong (no clicky drums, no thin guitars, much better sounding than The Adversary), and the musicianship is tenaciously firm, making for a pretty close to perfect package. It would have been nice to have some lyrics to read, however. Nevertheless, Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam is one of the finest albums of the year, and easily one of the frontrunners for best black metal release at this point. I really have nothing too terribly bad to say about it. Buy, or blow the nefarious infernal goat.

Posted by Old Guard

The retired elite of LastRites/MetalReview.

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