Thrall: Aokigahara Jukai

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Thrall: Aokigahara Jukai
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Thrall: Aokigahara Jukai
Black Metal
Moribund Records
November 19th, 2013
Release length: 45:45
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In 2005, a band by the name of Thy Plagues was born. The Australian group issued a demo in 2007 before changing their name to what they currently go by today: Thrall. Three years after that initial recording, they released their first under the new name, the debut album Away from the Haunts of Men through Total Holocaust Records, a rather well well received offering. A year later they signed with Moribund Records for the follow-up Vermin to the Earth. It’s now 2013, and we’re faced with their third full-length in as many years. Aokigahara Jukai, the second offering through Moribund Records, and the first to not receive much attention from the press or fans of the style. Is this a sign of poor quality, or is Aokigahara Jukai actually a hidden modern Metal gem?

Aokigahara Jukai mixes together a hint of Swedish melody and bass-heavy Metal with a nice deal of Norwegian aggression. “Longing for Death” sets up the experience perfectly with the opening riffs utilizing moderately sharp distortions in a slower pace to hint at the subtle hooks that exist. This shifts to an assertive authority as the speed picks up at just the right time, offering a mixture of trudging, burdening tension with mid-tempo hostility thrown in from time to time. It’s an interesting mixture that works very well in a restricted manner. Around three minutes and forty seconds in, the pace does pick up a bit with an early Black Metal approach that is impossible to not bang your head along to, capturing the spirit of early groups like Venom with a less restricted enthusiasm that is built up well enough. Sadly this isn’t the most awe-inspiring of performances, but it’s still a solid set up for what’s to come.

“Ubasute” is a relentless assault on the listener. While it may not feel like a fast paced track, there’s plenty of blasting from the drum kit, as well as some matching guitar work that isn’t always too complex, but definitely fits the bill. Once again the song feels a bit restricted, but this stems more from the audio quality. While crisp, this comes off a bit more raw for the first half, while the second offers some emotional complexity in the guitars, and a great deal of enthusiasm in the raspy screams that fit the general environment of the performance. This is followed by “The Pact,” which starts like a mixture of early Darkthrone aggression with the rich atmosphere and slower paces of My Dying Bride. About two minutes in, the sharper guitars pick up speed, caving to more of a melodic Emperor inspiration with heavy vocal distortions, and a little layering in that department as well, and even some deeper bludgeoning distortions later on.

But that’s not all Aokigahara Jukai has in store. The title track “Aokigahara Jukai” does find Thrall adding a hint of Satyricon style Hard Rock influence (circa-Volcano) will instantly appreciate. This appears throughout the song, mixed in some blasting drums and fast paced riffs, as well as what sounds like a grim breakdown about six minutes in that lends an epic vibe to the catchy, enthusiastic conclusion. That touch of Rock doesn’t end here though, showing up after “Its Toothless Maw” bares its fangs with abrasive blast beat fuelled drums and a melancholic atmosphere. This is the most eccentric of the performances though, constantly jumping between mid-tempo infections, venomous faster attitudes, even a crawling Doom Metal section just past the three minute mark. All of this is interesting, but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression on the listener. Instead it just feels like shaky ground.

If you couldn’t tell, Aokigahara Jokai is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to the Black Metal genre. Thrall definitely wear their influences on their sleeves a lot more proudly this time around, but manage to have enough of a unique sound that ties most of them together quite well. There are times where this simply doesn’t work out, such as on “Ubasute,” but for the most part it’s kept in check. Even when the performances are clearly restricted, the songs themselves are still catchy enough to hold the listeners attention while either forcing him or her to bang their head along, or cower in fear of the sudden venomous hostility. If you’re new to Thrall, or you’ve enjoyed their previous efforts, there’s really no reason you won’t get into most of what Aokigahara Jokai has to offer.

01. Longing for Death – 5:50
02. Aokigahara Jukai – 7:04
03. Of Hate – 5:48
04. Its Toothless Maw – 4:42
05. Ubasute – 5:41
06. The Pact – 7:05
07. Ghost Chrysalides – 1:52
08. Slaves – 7:42
Initial Pressing Score: 7.5/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Moribund Records.