They may have started off with a sound that pulled heavily from the second-wave Norwegian template, but in recent years Belgian black metal band Enthroned has struck a fine balance between darker melodies and the genre’s usual violence and chaos. For full length number eleven, Cold Black Suns, the band has taken a bit more time with the give year gap between albums serving as their longest yet. With a new guitarist and bass player onboard Enthroned has pushed out even further towards sweeping melodies that threaten to suffocate the listener in complete darkness while still offering sudden outbursts of blasting. Though some of the build-ups may drag a bit and the songs don’t have as much of an immediate impact compared to some of the group’s previous discography, the power and entrancing nature of the high points make Cold Black Suns a worthy release.
Enthroned is no stranger to ominous and foreboding intros as 2014’s Sovereigns started off with a sinister sounding intro, but Cold Black Suns extends it out further and starts things off in a more slow and methodical fashion than some listeners may be used to. It’s an effective way to create tension from the get-go without rather than starting right at peak volume, and as the song heads towards its conclusion the darkness and dread begin to fully seep in. “Hosanna Satana” immediately switches gears with a short and concentrated blast of violence, making it clear that even with the change in lineup the band hasn’t forgotten their earlier days. From this point onwards, there’s an even balance between blasting and atmospheric melodies that expand naturally and give off a vibe just as spine chilling as their louder counterparts. This results in stunning moments like “Silent Redemption” where the melodies get under your skin and fuse with the bite of the bass and underlying instrumentation to create a potent cocktail. With that being said, some of the later tracks skew towards the longer side and some of the build-ups and softer passages start to drag a bit too much which dampens the impact slightly. It’s not enough to derail the experience, but it does keep the album from coming through with as much force and tension as it could.
Nornagest has delivered one strong performance after another since taking over the lead vocal position in 2007, and this continues to be the case on Cold Black Suns. With an increased emphasis on darker melodies his harsher screams tower over the album with a commanding presence, and there’s a good deal of space between each verse which allows the energy level to stay at its highest level throughout. On songs like “Aghoria” the vocals adapt an almost ritualistic chant and head into slightly cleaner territory while still maintaining a sinister vibe, but for much of the album there’s a clear emphasis on intense verses that deliver the type of fire and grit black metal is known for.
Cold Black Suns finds Enthroned branching out further and exploring the dark and melodic side of the genre in greater depth than ever before. It’s a direction that makes sense stylistically based on their more recent full lengths, and while there are some sections that drag a bit and build up for a little too long the strength of the soaring melodies and tense feeling generated by the strongest tracks makes up for it. It’s not a drastic reinvention, but instead proves that even after eleven albums this long running group still has new territory to venture into. Cold Black Suns is out now on Season of Mist.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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