originally written by Chris McDonald
Depending on who you ask, Gorgoroth’s second album is either the best or the worst of the band’s seminal first three releases. I stand somewhere in the middle; Antichrist sees the band upping the melodic quality of their riffs but losing some of the animalistic intensity that made Pentagram such a classic in the process. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great album, and just like the first it should be heard by all black metal fans. But a couple of important factors keep this one from topping Gorgoroth’s debut.
After the short and rather pointless intro track, “Bergtollets Hevn” comes in with its chilling melodies and it’s clear that Gorgoroth are treading a somewhat different path here. Contrary to the primal fury of Pentagram’s opener “Begravelsesnatt,” the feeling here is somewhat more depressive and low-key than the debut, but still retains the aggression necessary for good black metal. The eponymous “Gorgoroth” continues this trend, and is definitely the centerpiece of the album. Its shimmering, melancholy riffs and downbeat mood make it arguably one of the strongest tracks Gorgoroth have written to date. Instrumental “Heaven’s Fall” is another excellent song (despite the odd vocal outburst towards the end), with sad, heavy riffs and smooth, well-written transitions. “Sorg” is long and slower like you’d expect from the closing track, but remains engaging with more of those classic old-school Norwegian melodies. The strength of these four songs alone makes this album a worthy purchase.
So it’s a pity that, despite containing some truly great material, Antichrist feels kind of undercooked in some areas. First, the pitiful length of this album is hard to get past for this reviewer. At less than twenty-five minutes in length, this really is more of an EP than a full-length album, and its brevity is likely to disappoint first-time listeners (hell, it still disappoints me). Also, the vocals of Hat/Pest are a big step down from the demonic screeches that stood out so much on the debut. Sure, there are some interesting experiments with clean singing, but the harsh vocals have degenerated to little more than a generic raspy growl that sounds like 90% of all other black metal vocalists. Finally, the track “Possessed (by Satan)” is something of a lame duck compared to the rest of the record. It’s pretty obvious by its primitive rhythms and largely a-melodic nature that this was a leftover cut from Pentagram, and while it’s not a bad track, it feels kind of out of place following the brilliance of “Gorgoroth.” That and Hat’s repeated groans of “We are possessed by the moooooooon, we are possessed by eviiiiiiiiiil!” gets pretty grating after awhile.
Don’t let the score scare you away; Antichrist is by all means a worthy buy for black metal fans. It’s just that it happens to be put in the unfortunate position of being stuck between two absolute masterpieces in Gorgoroth‘s discography. It’s frustrating, because if this album were a little more fleshed out it could very possibly be their best work, rather than a great album with some disappointing flaws.