Review – Blood Red Throne: Union of Flesh and Machine

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  • Bio: "Norwegian death metal band formed by Død in 1998." - Facebook
  • Label: Candlelight Records
  • Release Date: July 15th, 2016
  • Genre: Death Metal
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

After a mild reception to their semi-rebirth on 2013’s self-titled seventh full-length effort, Norse death metal masterminds Blood Red Throne return with their latest effort, Union of Flesh and Machine. The five-piece act consisting of returning members Yngve “Bolt” Christiansen (ex-Grimfist on vocals and drummer Freddy Bolsø (ex-Enslaved), this entity has become one of the underground’s must watch acts as of late. With a few songs being spread across the internet to torment long-time fans and newcomers alike, this new effort was promising to be a hard-hitting assault Candlelight Records had no qualms in unleashing upon the world. But does the album live up to the hype, or is this one of the group’s less palatable affairs?

Given the tight, crisp sounding previous effort, Union of Flesh and Machine‘s somewhat rawer sounding values immediately assure the listener Blood Red Throne are looking to cripple with more than just blast beat driven brutality. The deeper audio not only pulls the bass guitar forward enough to pretty much co-exist with the deeper distortions, but also set up an eerie, pungent atmosphere that feels like a cross between Macabre and Deceased with some Obituary or Cannibal Corpse hooks from time to time. This isn’t to say the instruments themselves are muddied. No, there’s a rich buzz to the guitars, even for some of those melancholic leads, while the drums stand at a nice distance to not overtake everything, leaving the growling vocals the only aspect that you can’t quite decipher in more of an animalistic snarling sort of way.

“Revocation of Humankind” introduces this dank world with a vile, ruthless assault full of grim hooks and some hardcore attitude behind the chugs. By the two-minute mark, you feel as though you have just been ravaged for well past double that amount of time as the pace changes between those haunting overtones and slams, leaving the deep gutturals the only consistency to this otherwise punishing opening cut. Sadly, outside the brutality of “Legacy of Greed” and its sounding like the very creation of a T-100 itself on a warpath for stray humans, this is more of a tease to get the listener’s attention. The rest of the album actually has a good amount of variety going for it while remaining grounded in the traditional values that made the death metal style such a dominant force in the first place.

“Proselyte Virus” is a good example of that very statement. While the previous track attempts to tear your skull clean off, this one commands you to bang your head along while it hangs from what little flesh and severed tendons remain in place. Even though it’s not as, this slab of traditional groove infused death metal bares its fangs through an admirable restraint that throws back to the glory days of the band as it plays on your nerves with a general uneasiness in the cold performance that the enthusiastic raspy screams play up the deeper in you get. Then there’s “Exposed Mutation”, which really asserts the dual rasp and guttural vocal approach the most as it should. The song carries itself with some extra thrash in the vein of Impaled, eventually throwing additional hooks in later with some crusty sounding riffs towards the very end for good measure.

With the exception of “Leather Rebel” and how it sounds like if Impious paid homage to Judas Priest, it seems the deeper in you get, the more it can tread a bit too close to that nineties era sound. Thankfully that’s not a bad thing in this case, as this is where Blood Red Throne can excel. “Homicidal Ecstasy” is another glorified nineties death metal cut that needs no deep explanation. Just think “Sentenced to Burn” by Cannibal Corpse, and you get the overall vibe of this one outside the frenzied bursts that make up the chorus and brief thrash tinged section around three minutes in. Even the title track “Union of Flesh and Machine” stands proudly in the tried-but-true category of the style. There are some bass leads that stick out in the chorus to add a bit of an eccentric flair to the crushing environment, taking on the slower paced bludgeoning and indecipherable growls in a manner that fans of Torture Killer‘s For Maggots to Devour will appreciate.

Blooid Red ThroneThat’s not all though. There is an additional layer to Union of Flesh and Machine that really helps keep the listener invested, and that’s the narration. Scattered about are chunks of cinematic dialogue that appear at the start of a few songs, weaving the entire effort together in a manner akin to Holy Murder Masquerade by Impious or even Impaled‘s Death After Life, though far less cheesy in the latter’s regard. All of this comes with a distinct disdain towards the well-being of mankind in general. It’s a nice additional touch that threads this horrific, grotesque, though largely attitude fueled dose of death metal into something a little more than what you might have otherwise anticipated.

All that said, Union of Flesh and Machine is still one hell of a release from Blood Red Throne, and definitely one of their strongest to date. While their self-titled comparatively seems like a step in a different direction, the band took those ideas and meshed them together with the groove filled hostility they founded themselves under to elevate their initial presence to a far more burdening level. Yes, some songs can walk along the straight-and-narrow a little too closely, though it never really feels like filler material save for “Leather Rebel”, and even that’s just something more out-of-place and time than anything that negatively effects the overall impact of the album. Union of Flesh and Machine delivers on basically every level one could hope for, and long times fans definitely won’t be disappointed with this fresh dose of aggression.

Blooid Red Throne

Digital review copy of this release provided by Blood Red Throne, as well as Freeman Promotions on behalf of Candlelight Records.