Ragnarok: Malediction

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Ragnarok: Malediction
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Ragnarok: Malediction
Black Metal
Agonia Records
November 6th, 2012
Release length: 44:54
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Norway’s Ragnarok formed back in 1994, and wasted no time churning out two demo recorings. That very year saw the release of Et Vinterland I Nord, and then in 1995, Pagan Land was issued, leading to the group signing with Head Not Found Records for their debut full-length recording, Nattferd, which also dropped that year. Since then, a total of six albums have been released, and the group find themselves now signed with Agonia Records. For 2012, they present their seventh, titled Malediction, as well as the first album to include guitarist Bolverk in the mix. But, does this work of Black Metal stand out from their previous efforts, or is this one just traditional fodder for the style?

Malediction has a superb mixture of sharpness and roaring deeper tones. The crisp production finds the sharp guitars working well to create a rather sinister sound against the low-tuned bass that thunders through the mix loudly, if not ratteling enough to be picked up in the mix. The bass kicks of the drum kit sound fantastic with a strong click that is masked by the deeper output of the snares, as well as the higher level cymbals that sound fantastic amid the rest of the chaos, a sound backed with a stern rhaspier performance that has a nice bit of range to the enthusiasm it brings. This works for the largely hostile and angry performance Ragnarok brings with them to each and every song.

Much of the album has a faster pace and is built largely around furious drumming with sinister or haunting guitar work. “Demon in my View” is a superb example of this, and how it should be done. The drums still offer a good amount of range in the snares and cymbals, while the bass kicks just hammer away at machinegun-like speed, as do the guitars. However, the leads often divert slightly for the sake of melody of rhythm. The song has some riffs that focus a lot on timing with a few gaps between, though the chorus is instantly infectious with some of the hooks that come through to make a rather melancholic chorus that the energetic vocals clearly feed off of, making this one of the most enjoyable songs on the album, even over the starting track “Blood of Saints.” That one opens the album well though, using a somewhat cinematic introduction that is grim and burdening in it’s symphonic prowess before the guitars rip into it with slow, but suiting chords. A little more than a minute in, the music hits like being kicked right in the gut, grabbing you by the throat with its speed and unleashed hatred as it screams in your face, demanding your headbanging obedience. It does loosen up a bit for some passages that end up more along a mid-pace. It sounds great, but the aggression seems to be put on hold slightly for these areas, dampening the festivities a little more than perhaps expected. But, this doesn’t stop the other songs from hitting you the same way.

That fury is felt in many others, including “Divide et Impera,” though it isn’t one of the most unique offerings here. I tis, however, one of the most hostile. The grim chords are simply unsetteling in many of the bridges, though they take on a lower tone with some additional complexity in the main riffs, weaving a dark and sinister atmosphere that the matching deeper rhasps play off of well, getting straight to the point with each passing second, an attitude felt on more than just this song. The intensity does start to die off a bit from this point, though some great cuts do still exist. “Fade into Obscurity” is definitely one of them, being far less intimidating, but still incorporating some melancholic riffs with a hint of hostility. The atmosphere is what becomes key here, and the music itself is just generally infectious, though not quite as heavy. Much of this can also be said for the previous “The Elevenfold Seal,” though it does have a bit more energy throughout, leading to a tighter performance all around that will have your head bobbing along more like instinct than a willfull acknowledgement of the song’s obvious rhythm.

There’s no denying that “(Dolce et Decorum est) Pro Patria Mori” is as violent and aggressive a track, but there’s also a unique grand, almost epic sound to much of the song, especially in the chorus and towards the end of the song. This actually boosts the song’s overall intensity. This often makes the atmosphere a bit more emotional, causing it to sound richer and tighter in execution. “Dystocratic” isn’t quite as jaw-dropping, aggressive, or even as grand as the previous song. This stems largely from the speed being a little less than normal, enough for it to become pretty obvious. This also lowers the energy captured. While it’s not one of the most engaging, it stands out on a far different scale. There are some catchy, rather morbid riffs that are a bit depressing at times, an environment that is greatly felt throughout the song.

While the latter half of the album does slowly start to lose the bite and enthusiasm that makes the first part stand out so well, Malediction is still a superbly furious and aggressive Black Metal album. The audio quality here is fantastic, being rather crisp and clear without losing any of the bite, all the while carving their hatred into your skull with rather impressive speeds and melodies. There’s plenty of great songs that will stand out way beyond that initial spin, such as “Blood of Saints,” “Demon in my View,” and “(Dolce et Decorum est) Pro Patria Mori” just to name a few. Fans of Ragnarok definitely won’t be let down by this album, as will those just looking for a solid release in the Black Metal field, making this a recording well worth keeping an eye out for the next time you happen to be out shopping at your favorite physical or on-line Metal retailer or distributor.

01. Blood of Saints – 5:00
02. Demon in my View – 4:03
03. Necromantic Summoning Ritual – 4:10
04. Divide et Impera – 4:17
05. (Dolce et Decorum est) Pro Patria Mori – 4:10
06. Dystocratic – 4:50
07. Iron Cross – Posthumous – 4:49
08. The Elevenfold Seal – 4:53
09. Fade into Obscurity – 5:15
10. Sword of Damocles – 3:27
Initial Pressing Score: 8/10
Ragnarok (band)
Ragnarok
Digital review copy of this release provided by Agonia Records.