originally written by Jim Brandon
As someone who was obsessed with the thrash scene when it was tearing up the underground towards the mid/late-80’s, speed has been an addictive element of extreme forms of metal that I simply have a hard time working my head out of, and black metal has been an absolute godsend regarding my passion for the faster things in life. But certainly, it takes a hell of a lot more than just speed to make a great album; Marduk and Dark Funeral have offered plentiful examples of that fact. Otargos has also shown great expertise at all things blasting, and they admirably try to add depth to their sound on No God, No Satan by reining in their all-out blitzkrieg of speed this time around, yet the results are more mixed than I anticipated.
No God, No Satan is one of those albums that starts out full of piss and hatred, and then abruptly proceeds to lose steam as things move along, with the more aggressive (and best) tunes spearheading the disc, and the more experimental, temperamental tracks filling out its latter half. This would be great if the slower, less traditional songs actually carried any sort of weight, or were captivating and interesting. After the odd “Hoax-Virus-God” opener, “Cloning The Divine” and “Worship Industrialized” start things out on an extremely promising note, with both tunes laying down heaps of smoking aggression while also adding the extra depth they so valiantly aspire to achieve by slowing down but staying energized in the riff and melody department. It’s almost immediately after the pair of barnstormers concludes that “Hexameron” nonchalantly waltzes in and drags the pace down to a very lazy crawl, but things get worse as the song brings in conversational talking in the background that sounds more like bleedthrough from a lousy AM radio transmission, which was far more of a distraction than a positive embellishment.
The lax vibe of “Hexameron” is a taste of the dullness that follows as “I, Flesh Of God” sounds more like part of a soundtrack to a bad Sci-Fi flick with no real structure or movement within, further contributing to the filler. “Origin” brings back some of the speed, but bears a rather unbalanced structure that never gains any serious momentum, and “Cuiusvius Hominis Est Errare” goes from being a potential highlight to just ten minutes of mundane minimalism and unfocused ideas, which, by now, has left me completely frustrated by the lack of focus through even the most forgivably meandering parts. At fifty-five minutes in length overall, bigger is not better in this instance, and an abundant amount of editing could have changed this from being nearly an hour of false hopes to about thirty minutes of intense black metal might. It doesn’t need to be 300 bpm; it definitely doesn’t have to express unmitigated rage from start to finish either; there just needs to be a kind of sustainable internal energy involved, and this doesn’t have it.
Above everything else, the songwriting as a whole is so scattershot and vague, and after a while No God, No Satan feels like an entire album with no real songs to be heard, just varied and uninspiring collections of non-riffs, stunted assemblies, and drawn out paths to nowhere. And the worst part of it all is that when Otargos hits the nail on the head, like with the menacing chugs that the bulky “The Hulk Of Conviction And Faith” momentarily brings to the table, or with the fantastic power of “Cloning The Divine” and “Worship Industrialized,” they then seem to go out of their way to turn around and balance it with something tedious and uneventful. They haven’t played up to their strengths, and it shows.
Change is good when it’s good, but change for the sake of it is folly. I don’t want to hear the same album over and over again from any band no matter how much I might love the chosen aesthetic, but if a band is brave enough or bored enough to slap on a new coat of paint onto a new product, it damn well better shine like a diamond, or at least like a decent quartz. This is more like fucking pumice. Please expand, extract, and reinvent all you want, but maturation and progression doesn’t have to come at the expense of rock-solid songwriting. Unfortunately for Otargos, that’s exactly what’s happened here.