Let’s start things off with a quick confession: yours truly was pretty severely bummed out when long-running Dutch death metal merchants God Dethroned announced that they were calling it quits. God Dethroned had always been a solid if unspectacular unit, but with the back-to-back triumphs of 2009’s Passiondale and 2010’s Under the Sign of the Iron Cross, the Holland hellions had shown themselves capable of tremendously emotive death metal intensity, pairing pounding aggression with a searing and infinitely memorable streak of epic blackened melodicism. Okay, fine, but this is a fucking Panzerchrist review, right? Too true, so while you unbunch your twisted undergarments, consider the following: while Regiment Ragnarok never reaches the unassailable heights of the above-mentioned albums, it ticks just enough of the same boxes to offer some small succor to anyone else similarly devastated by God Dethroned’s throwing in the towel after the best two albums of its career.
To business, then: album number six from Danish war-blasters Panzerchrist is an unrelenting blitz of hyper-paced death metal blasting, thrashy death/black riffing, and often mournful black metal melodies. It’s not quite the full-on chugging death metal battalion of Bolt Thrower, and it’s not quite the incessant black onanism of Endstille, but it does wind up being a fair approximation of a midpoint between the two styles. The true standout quality of Panzerchrist is the credulity-stretching speed of Mads Lauridsen’s drumming. Lauridsen replaces longtime Panzerchrist drummer (and possessor of similarly-inhuman chops) Reno Killerich (awesome name, by the way) on Regiment Ragnarok, and does so quite admirably. Not only is the lightspeed drumming truly an impressive feat on its own merits, but equally of note is that the blasting is broken up enough by fills and tempo downshifts that it rarely gets truly tiresome. Check out late-album highlight “Feuersturm” for Lauridsen’s drumming at its blindingest of blinding speeds.
Most of the best songs here end up following a fairly similar template, with spiky verse riffing leading into a slightly loping groove and half-speed drumming to highlight minor-keyed melodies throughout the chorus. New vocalist Magnus Jørgensen has an impressively hoarse bellow that suits the music just as well as one could hope, and the bass provides a great rumbling undercarriage for this nimbly lumbering Panzer beast (see “We March as One”). Where the attentive listener will really pick up the God Dethroned vibe, however, is in the dual guitar interplay, which is occasionally melancholic, often jittery and string-skipping, and always precise in its rapid-fire rhythmic marching to the blast’s beat. “Metal Tribes” features some of the album’s tastiest and most elastic riffs, with the second guitar splashing all sorts of interesting acrobatics above the rhythm track. “Impact” slows things down, adding a bit of clean guitar meandering over a subdued but crunchy midsection, and the ascending guitar melodies in “Ode to a Cluster Bomb” are quite lovely, in a disturbingly (yet presumably intentionally) incongruous fit with the subject matter.
At 45 minutes this relentless assault verges on being too much to handle, particularly as the individuality of the songs breaks down as the album progresses, leading to some of the dullest songs around the album’s midsection (“The Armour of Armageddon” and “King Tiger”). Furthermore, the relatively brief and uneventful one-two flick of “Time for the Elite” and “Trenches” closes out the album in a disappointingly lackluster fashion. Nevertheless, for the majority of its run-time, Regiment Ragnarok is a surgical strike of an album, ruthlessly precise and lip-smackingly intense. It’s still no patch on those last two God Dethroned albums – and obviously I’m kind of a dick for harping so much on the comparison – but if, as one often does, you need to get your head cracked by some blasting and blunt riffing while simultaneously having it bandaged with the gauze of wistfully melodic meditations on the theme of war and carnage, then Regiment Ragnarok is just the salve and tonic for you. Just don’t call ‘em Pansy-christ.