Often regarded as the spiritual successor to Woods of Ypres, Thrawsunblat stand for emotive and passionate black metal from the american north. Metachthonia is the title of their third album and adds another entry to the list of noteworthy black metal releases of 2016.
Canadian folk black metal trio Thrawsunblat was formed from the remaining members of Woods of Ypres after the passing of David Gold, multi-instrumentalist and driving force behind the project, in December 2011. The band is often regarded as Woods of Ypres’ spiritual successor and rightfully so. However, as someone that really enjoyed all of the material that Woods of Ypres put out, Thrawsunblat’s previous albums didn’t quite resonate with me overall, despite having some wonderful tracks here and there. I was surprised and excited nonetheless when I found out that the band released a third album, the title of which is Metachthonia, a term that, to my knowledge, was coined by the band and describes the “epoch after the age of the earth; this current electric age”.
This time around, Thrawsunblat released a small bundle of five tracks ranging from eight to ten minutes instead of the usual, longer tracklists with songs ranging from four to seven minutes. The band retains their very own brand of black metal on this album and brings in a cello instead of a fiddle and tin whistles on the folky side as they present us with what I consider to be a major step forward in the band’s sound. Said cello parts are supplied by Raphael Weinroth-Browne of The Visit, a fellow canadian band, and kick off the opening track of this album Fires that Light the Earth.
The chilling and introspective string arrangements are joined by some slow guitar chords before the music erupts into a euphoric and wild black metal storm, initiated by Joel Violette’s screams. The first few minutes of this track are easily some of the best material the band has written to date. It’s invigorating, it’s powerful, it’s passionate and it’s simply fun. Walls of tremolo-picked guitars alternate with rhythmic riffing fronted by layers of passionate clean vocals and black metal screams propelled by blastbeat drumming make this first track an incredibly diverse and dynamic piece. The cello also chimes back in every so often to enrich the music with another layer of depth and emotion. I like how Thrawsunblat utilized short stops before the intense parts of the song.
She Who Names the Stars, the second song off of this album, features a lot of swaying, mid-paced rhythms that draw you into the nostalgic atmosphere of the song.
Onwards to the next track we have Dead of Winter, a pretty straighforward black metal track that stays true to the virtues of this album and presents us with a powerful, mulit-layered composition full of intense double bass drum playing and wild guitars that moves into an atmospheric acoustic guitar section in the last third of the track and also features some screams by the band’s drummer, Rae Amitay, all throughout the song.
The last two tracks of the album that follow after this are where Metachthonia loses a bit of its steam for me. Hypochthonic Remnants is another black metal powerhouse and Rivers of Underthought is a mostly mid-paced piece featuring a sort of underlying marching beat and, despite being enjoyable to listen to, these two songs just lack the memorability and impact of the previous tracks for me.
Another minor gripe I have with this album is the production. I feel like a bit more range would have really helped the mix, since it can get a bit overwhelming in parts, with how many layers of guitars and vocals there are in addition to the drums and cello. I also think that the guitars are slightly too loud and upfront, whereas the vocals are a bit buried in the mix at times.
Thrawsunblat definitely outdid themselves in terms of songwriting on this album though. The band did a very good job at layering vocals and guitars to create some really captivating songs with very fitting, intense drumming and well placed string and acoustic highlights. The power and passion displayed all throughout this record make Metachthonia one of the most fun albums in black metal and metal in general of this year so far.