If you’re the type who fondly looks back to the days when the metal formula was a hell of a lot more straight-forward and money spent on nearly any spiked, panda-painted band from Norway resulted in satisfaction and the knowledge that your support was going toward some sort of left-hand path, allow me to offer one possible explanation as to why your world might seem like a swirling vortex of lunacy the last decade-plus: Nerds.
Now let’s get something straight: I ain’t here to throw shade on Poindexters, because I am a nerd. Luckily, one can admit such a thing today and remain self-confident, thanks to warriors in taped-glasses like Steve Jobs and whoever the hell’s responsible for getting “I heart nerd shirts” on very attractive people. If you doubt my conviction, I have a stack of sealed Marvel “Rise of the Midnight Sons” Special Collectors’ Item Issue comic books in my closet to support my claim.
The fact of the matter is, however, nerds have a way of kicking anything they’re interested in into tornados of intellectual and pseudo-intellectual lawlessness when given free rein. Razored, frozen riffs and fevered howls to the Man Downstairs now share the pool with bands flopping around arsehole-to-elbow with alphorns, dulcimers, wonky coldwave synths, and mechanized Borgs whose live shows look as if they were ripped from the platform of the Close Encounters mothership. That’s all wonderful, mind you – variety is the melange of life – but Instinctus Bestialis, Gorgoroth’s trumpeted return to the game after a six year stretch, is a record much better suited for those interested in getting back to the basics of evil heavy metal.
Apart from some scattered moments of atmospheric keys buried in the backdrop to enhance the record’s slowest, darkest junctures, the bulk of these 32 minutes is spent in a mid-to-brisk pace of meat ‘n’ taters riffing and galloping that’s surprisingly heavy. Opener “Radix Malorum” is the most blistering track amongst the eight, but it also quickly sets the stage for the more straight-forward jack-hammering that dominates cuts such as “Dionysian Rite,” “Come Night,” and the closing twosome of “Kala Brahman” and “Awakening.” Thanks to yet another rich & deep production job (works for the band’s modern angle, but not so much for the re-recording of their raw roots works), these tunes do an effective job of strengthening the more dense, chugging slant the band brought into the picture somewhere around the Incipit Satan days. Bassist Bøddel (Frank Watson, ex-Obituary) and drummer Tomas Asklund bring as much to the overall punch as Infernus does with his hefty riffing, and new vocalist Atterigner’s (Triumfall) huskier snarl, while rather one-dimensional, adds a nice contemporary flavor that’s more in line with the Mikkos of the world, as compared to the raspier Pest or Gaahl delivery.
Where Instinctus Bestialis shines, however, is when the melodic and gloomier sides get pulled into the spotlight. “Ad Omnipotens Aeterne Diabolus” is the album’s most diverse cut, and that somber stretch that jumps off Infernus’ frets around 1:30 adds a warm and inviting touch that, for the most part, is pretty atypical of the band. Similarly, “Burn in His Light” throws down a lengthy, notably melodic lead around its midpoint, and “Rage,” the album’s slowest track, drops a somber measure around 2:30 that’s both delicate and sincerely affective.
No big surprises in terms of lyrics, as Instinctus Bestialis delivers enough hails to Satan in 30 minutes that you’ll be on the Westboro Church’s “God Hates You” mailing list until the end of time after just one listen. If that seems old-hat for some reason, consider the fact that Fanny Crosby hailed God on literally every one of the 8000-plus hymns she wriggled out of her virtuous pen; for every Yang, there is a suitably corrupt Yin. Bottom line: Gorgoroth plays Satanic metal – if that ain’t your bag, you are lining up for the wrong roller coaster, St. Augustine.
Again, as a nerd who has quite seriously looked into Starfleet uniforms on several occasions, I remain thrilled that metal offers services to inhabitants from Middle-earth to Jupiter and everywhere in-between, but if you’re the type who appreciates getting back to basics, and you don’t have the time (or the cassette player) necessary to dig through the unfathomable depths of the underground for your good old-fashioned Devil metal, Gorgoroth still has your back.