Review – Among Gods: Ghost Empire

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  • Bio: "Among Gods brought doom to various scenes since 2011, including festivals like Southern Discomfort and Mølla Festival, and have done shows at legendary scenes as Garage (Bergen) and John Dee (Oslo) among others." - Facebook
  • Label: Argonauta Records
  • Release Date: June 17th, 2016
  • Genre: Death Metal, Doom Metal
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

Norway’s Among Gods was forged back in 2010 by vocalist Kenneth “Ripper” Olsen as a side project to his currently active status in Syrach. Since then, the founding line-up has been pretty stable, though three 2011 additions have since left the group. The band’s self-titled debut album was released back in 2012, which was followed up in 2014 by Monument through PRC Music. It’s been about two years and the Norway-based act return with Ghost Empire through Argonauts Records for a late June of 2016 release. But does this third outing throw anything new into the mix, or is it just more of the same solid death metal brutality?

If you’ve heard or at least sampled the last two albums from Among Gods you’ll have noticed a gradual change, specifically in the pace of the material. What once was a band offering up shot after shot of intense swedish death metal with their debut began showing tendencies to slow things down and play up an eerie atmosphere. With Ghost Empire we see that shift only further itself with a stronger doom presence behind the death metal material, not to mention a technical push in some instances like “Tundra”. This one is a mixture of Opeth randomness and dark undertones with bouts of Death‘s later discography to play up some aggression such as around three and four minutes in. While the creeping passages here are some of the slowest the effort has to offer, it’s the quicker intricacies that stand out the most. While it all works with the standard death metal growling, it just doesn’t have the strength to be as effective as it is highly varied, not to mention leaves you wanting a little more from the vocals to compliment those faster segments.

But, that’s the only track with such extreme levels of randomness, which is for the best. While it’s not the most engaging next to the long-winded ambient introduction piece “Incipiens” given how it bleeds into “Ghost Empire” another forty-six seconds (putting this “start” at over two minutes for the sake of atmosphere we come to terms with a max of forty seconds in), there’s more going on to this release that speaks favorably of the group in comparison. Once you get past that near minute long extension, you’re given some God Macabre chill with an off-and-on Morbid Angel pacing that picks up as you near the end. The only problem is that the beginning isn’t anything too special, not to mention leaves the listener gripping for fear with how it sets itself up like a modern deathcore outing that thankfully isn’t what we’re given with the rest of this recording. In fact, “Deliver Us From Evil” throws some hard-hitting riffs and precise chugging in the guitars on par with Immolation.

“Pandemonium”, however, is where the band’s dexterity really does shine. This slower pace isn’t quite as frostbitten as the rest, instead favoring more of a dank marshy surrounding that the next eight minutes plus leaves you trudging through. There is a cleaner segment about five minutes in that also sets up the progressive twist you find later on during “Tundra” while the background chords end up sounding a bit like something that could accompany the classic Knight Rider television series. This chunk just doesn’t really seem all that necessary, offering little to benefit the ritualistic climax other than to completely counter it for some reason with a sensation of innocence within the somewhat occult surroundings.

Among GodsGhost Empire is the logical next step for Among Gods as far as the progression of their sound goes. The execution, however, does leave more to be desired. It in’t that this is a bad album by any means, but a few off sections and an overly spastic track of technicality does show the band wasn’t quite ready to dive into the deep end head first. With a little more refinement and building on the doom traits of their sound, there’s no doubt Ancient Gods will have the power to stand tall alongside the likes of Incantation, Morbid Angel, or Swedish counter parts God Macabre. But, for now, we still find Among Gods kind of stuck in between worlds, and while it isn’t all bad, it doesn’t make Ghost Empire the most memorable as a whole. If you enjoy creeping death metal with that signature swedish twist, this is something you’ll want to check out from a band that you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on to see how they continue to grow.

Among Gods

Digital review copy of this release provided by Argonauts Records via NeeCee Agency.