I’m all for the hybridization of black metal. Hell, the metal world is already heavily populated with bands artfully fusing black metal with various other sub-genres from psychedelic prog (Enslaved) to death and doom (Withered) to shoegaze (Alcest), and the list could go on forever. At some point, though, it just seems as if, perhaps, the genre-splicing becomes less about the natural integration of complementary sounds than a calculated grab for as yet unexploited territory. I certainly can’t say with any conviction that this is what Onheil are up to, but the heavy dose of melodeath injected into Razor is what prompted the question.
Never minding a minute-long ambient intro piece, Razor opens with a couple of songs that are sharp enough at the edges, consistently driving the riffs bone-deep. The trouble is they get all gummed up in their ooey-gooey melodeath centers. That isn’t to say Onheim doesn’t play each of these angles well enough, just that the bits of Dark Tranquillity and such are a little like otherwise-delicious frosting slathered all over an otherwise-delicious steak. No, the record’s strengths are reflected primarily from within the midsection, in those tracks that eschew the Gothenburg stock in favor of melody drawn from blacker springs fed by such acts as Dissection and Vreid. The nearly epic title track and the war cry of “The Fallen Kingdom” conduct pure black energy, even if the production renders it a little less than optimally powerful. “Day of Departure” presents a bit of pleasant surprise in alternating a sultry Southern groove riff with a regally ascendant tremolo run, which by all indications shouldn’t work but does. And, as if to most obviously reveal to the world that their blackened hearts haven’t suffered the slightest ruddiness, “Penetration of Innocence” gets all grimy-nasty, drenched in the spittle of lyrics like, When I say fuck, you fucking fuck! and When you are crying on the floor/Feeling like a filthy little whore/I just smile and walk away/But your tormented memories are forever saved. It’s a kick-ass black metal anthem, even if its misogynistic bent is conceptually callow. The strength of these tracks and the fact that most of the remaining melodeath is reserved for the few songs at the back end adds to the curiosity regarding its inclusion at all.
Although, apart from the dubious blending of styles, its ideas come from pretty well-picked stores, Razor is played well and feels pretty damn tight, an aspect at least partially attributable to a relatively glossy production job. It seems I’ve seen a lot of black metal albums lately that would really smoke if only it weren’t for the superfluous inclusion of really unwarranted accents. Maybe it’s just a natural consequence of the genre’s growing up. More likely, given that so many other projects have staked their claim in black metal’s manifest destiny, it’s simply that Onheil is struggling to fit in by standing out. Might be more advisable to go with what comes naturally.