Seeping and slithering in the dark corners of the Norwegian black metal scene, Enthral has remained quite unnoticed since its creation in 1995. Seventeen years and only four full-lengths later, Gunnhild Bratset and Kjetil Hektoen, who once operated with three now-long-lost members of the group, have adopted Kai Asvik into their clan as lead bassist. Although nothing about Enthral‘s latest effort is strikingly unique or out of the ordinary for a modern black metal band from Europe, the group has made some slight adjustments that have, in turn, traded in some of the sounds that made the project more unique in exchange for tightening up the overall finished product.
Much like something fans of the more run-of-the-mill releases from Debemur Morti or Moribund would hope to expect,Obtenebrate combines traditionally evil compositions with modern techniques that thicken the album’s overall frightening aesthetic. Enthral has dropped all of its synths this time around, and has ultimately gained more from this decision than it has lost, given that the Emperor-esque trait the group once tried to possess is both challenging and risky (due to potential cheesiness, mostly.) Bratset’s drawn-out strumming is digested well with Hektoen’s enjoyable technical drumming, demonstrating that this duo has been tight for quite some time. Asvik’s bass notes help thicken the guitar walls, but aren’t unique enough to stop the trio from sounding like [insert French black metal band here]-lite. (The one most would use to fill in that blank also began a recent album with an O-word that possesses way too many syllables.) Bad timing perhaps? It depends on how inundated with the sound the beholder of this record will have been by the time they have it in their hands.
Fortunately, Enthral is not really guilty of anything here with the exception of bad timing as far as the album’s release is concerned. Although possessing a very black core, the riffs give off a much older, death metal vibe at times — a sound that the band has also tried to perfect in the past. While hardcore fans of the genre will thoroughly enjoy Obtenebrate as one of this year’s hidden gems, the rest will dismiss it rather quickly, which is rather unfortunate. Although a bit late to the trend, Enthral has offered up what might be the strongest album of its discography thusfar, and they’ve done it during a difficult time of year. Obtenebrate deserves considerably high merits in categories of musicianship and production, its slight lack of originality in the songwriting department will be the album’s ultimate setback. Interestingly enough, however, fans of good old-fashioned death metal that are normally turned off by the pretentiousness of today’s black metal bands might end up being the ultimate propagators of Obtenebrate‘s positive reception.