With the formation of more and more Black Metal bands over time, you see the number rise of those who are trying to recreate the same general sound that is associated with the genre. One of the bands who contributed to the creation of Black Metal, Ragnarok, has dished out album after album of that same relentless sound, but with their own distinct features. Many have tried to capture the same essence that brings the genre to life, but few have the same raw power and musicianship that makes Ragnarok so great. Throughout the course of time, the band has done nothing but prove to be a band that a Black Metal fan can’t live without knowing.
Ragnarok was formed in 1994 in Sarpsborg, Norway by Jerv and Jontho after they had left their previous band (Thoth). Named after the last battle between the Norse gods and the giants, Ragnarok has continued lyrically to keep in sync with their name by writing about Vikings and Norse Mythology, along with Satanism of course. Ragnarok released their first demo, Et Vinterland i Nord, in 1994 with the original line-up of Jerv, Jontho, Rym and Thyme. The demo received positive feed back and got the band signed to Head Not Found Records, this label ended up releasing their first full-length, Nattferd (1995), and their two following albums Arising Realm (1997) and Diabolical Age (2000). However, vocalist Thyme had left the band shortly after the release of their 2000 record and was replaced by Astaroth; around the same time a second guitarist was added (Sander), but was quickly kicked out and replaced with Lord Arcamous. With a new line-up, the band left to perform with Satanic Slaughter, but during this tour it became clear that Astaroth was not fit for the band. Lord Arcamous filled in for Astaroth until Hoest (Taake) joined as a permanent vocalist in 2002 and with this new addition Ragnarok toured Europe and the states. The band then released their 2004 record, Blackdoor Miracle, leaving both the fans and the band satisfied. In 2008, Hoest left and was replaced with Ragnarok’s current vocalist, HansFyrste; Hans went on to record vocals on the 2010 album Collectors Of The King and the 2012 album Malediction. Malediction is the second album to feature HansFyrste and is a part of the progression into higher quality albums with each release.
Blood of Saints was released earlier by the band in anticipation of the album, and is the perfect choice to represent it. Not only is it one of the best songs off of Malediction, but in only 5 minutes it was able to secure a preorder from myself. Although it takes a few seconds to build into the song, it wastes little time getting to the point. The looming symphonic intro might scare off anyone who has a stick up their ass about anything that isn’t TR00 in a song, but it’s relatively short and adds necessary tension and power to the album. In a metaphorical way, the song prepares you for the album by grabbing your hair and smashing your head into it. The music forces its way into your mind in such a fashion that you can’t even imagine how incredible it would be to hear live, and no part of the song fails to represent complete chaos. The second track of the album, Demon in my View, has racked up an incredible amount of “plays” on my iTunes, more than 3 times the other songs, (and that’s saying something). The sheer intensity of the song pulls the listener along through every change in tempo, and completely engrosses you when HansFyrste sings in sync with the shrill guitar riffs. Necromantic Summoning Ritual follows along in the same regard, and like with every other Ragnarok song known to man, you wonder how the Hell these people don’t have arthritis from playing so fast for so long. Divide et Impera begins with a high-pitched, fast-paced riff and a somewhat similar song structure as the song before, but isn’t a clone copy. The tempo changes throughout, keeping the listener on edge and in the same mood as the album. The steady thumping of the drums is intoxicating,
(Dolce Et Decorum Est) Pro Patria Mor and Dystocratic both go to great lengths to break the album up from any sort of repetition whatsoever while creating a distinction from each song to the next. Pro Patria Mor takes a slower approach that alternates from high to low pitched notes and takes you off guard with the low beats per minute. Dystocratic starts out different than any Ragnarok song I can recall, retaining the same slow pace as the last song but with a completely different feeling that can’t easily be described. It shows their willingness to experiment, but that they also don’t plan on straying from their core sound. However in the seventh song Iron Cross – Posthumous, it doesn’t hesitate to revert right back to the style of the album determined by the first few tracks. Starting with incredible playing and a scream from HansFyrste, it launches into the rest of Malediction with relentless blast beats that makes you want to turn the volume to the max. Following Iron Cross, the last three songs end the album differently than how it started, but not to a high degree. As you dig further into the album, certain tracks start to sound somewhat similar to a track before, just utilized in a different way. Although the mood has slightly shifted from the beginning to the end, it doesn’t mean that any part of the album undesirable, (even though I’d personally stick to the first half).
Like all their previous releases, Malediction is beautifully dark, with raw guitar tone, drumming, and vocals that come together to create an overwhelmingly violent mood while sounding pleasant to the ear. Ragnarok’s constant quality of albums creates a high standard for their releases, but Malediction proves that they don’t have the ability to disappoint.
1. Blood Of Saints
2. Demon In My View
3. Necromantic Summoning Ritual
4. Divide Et Impera
5. (Dolce Et Decorum Est) Pro Patria Mori
7. Iron Cross – Posthumous
8. The Elevenfold Seal
9. Fade Into Obscurity
10. Sword Of Damocles