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Blood Red Throne 

Document of Death (Hammerheart/Martyr Music Group)

The Scandinavian metal scene continues to evolve even as the rest of the world continues not to notice, outside of a minuscule underground web of fanatics who treasure their own obscurity above almost all else. The latest silly catch-all term in vogue among journalists is "extreme metal"; it refers to heavy metal that dips into both the black-metal palette (symphonic guitars, occasional use of strings or keyboards) and the death-metal cookie jar (growled vocals instead of black metal's shrieks; lots more action on the bottom end). Norway's the place for this stuff; while the Swedes and Finns are experimenting a lot with melody and instrumentations, up in Norway it's all about loud, fast rules with the gore factor cranked up as high as it'll go.

The latest entry in the harder-than-you sweepstakes is Blood Red Throne, a group who incorporate some really wonderful riffage into their spraying-howitzer squalls. Document of Death starts off rather slowly but suddenly locks into the extreme-metal equivalent of an honest-to-God groove, a triggered kickdrum rolling like thunder under some of the most prime headbanging guitar real estate you'll hear mapped. The vocals are incomprehensible troll-under-the-bridge-isms, but that's what lyric sheets are for.

What, then, of the lyrics? Well, they're simply horrifying and genuinely offensive: They're wholly misanthropic first-person murder/torture fantasies. You'd sooner hire Eminem to babysit your kids for the entire weekend than let them spend five minutes glancing over this record's lyric sheet. The unrhymed, mainly first-person narratives that vocalist Mr. Hustler delivers in his tuneless, high-volume growl are relentlessly violent, single-mindedly nihilistic tapestries of senseless gore for its own sake, with the occasional spirited call for new recruits: "Therefore I command you invigorated man/woman, child and beast/Come forth!/Become as one and join/My indisputable hordes of darkness."

Honestly, now -- breathes there a person whose inner adolescent doesn't thrill at this sort of thing? Is it great poetry? No. Should Tim Rice fear for his job as Andrew Lloyd Webber's librettist? No. But does it punch all the same buttons early Slayer albums did and give the same heady, uncomfortable adrenaline rush? You better believe it does, and when it hits its screaming pitch in a song such as "Mary Screams of Death," the bloody photographs in the CD booklet of band members in staged postsuicide poses and the unstoppable thrashing force of the sawmill guitar will all combine to give you one giant guilt-inducing wallop. Way cool.

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More by John Darnielle

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September 9, 2020

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