Monday, March 10, 2014

Throne of Ahaz

Throne of Ahaz - On Twilight Enthroned
No Fashion Records, 1996
Genre: Black Metal

1. Fenris
2. The Forlorn
3. With Shadow Wings
4. On Twilight Enthroned
5. Where Veils of Grief are Dancing Slow
6. Let Blood Paint the Ground
7. Blackthorn Crown
8. Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath Cover)

Merely a year after the release of "Nifelheim" and Throne of Ahaz had already recorded their second album "On Twilight Enthroned." This isn't very surprising considering when the first was recorded. Unfortunately there was a line-up change after "Nifelheim" and Niklas Svensson has left the band. However, he was replaced with one of Sweden's more high profile musicians Vargher. Many probably know him as Marcus E. Norman from Ancient Wisdom and Bewitched. He would later go on to join Naglfar, probably the best known band he's in now.

I think Vargher is by far the better writer for Throne of Ahaz and with Beretorn's vocals really giving life to the atmosphere this turns out to be the best album for me. I'm not sure this album really got a fair shake in 1996... I'm trying to remember what the landscape was lie back then. I want to say I think they got a bit overshadowed by Dark Funeral and Dissection. Marduk was on their fifth album, so a large following was already existent there... so I think Throne of Ahaz got pushed under other bands' momentum. Well, like Sacramentum, I think Throne of Ahaz put together a great album in retrospect. The riffing actually isn't too far off from what Naglfar would eventually sound like with Vargher writing the music. We just have the treat of hearing him in more of the early days. Jens Ryden even shows up on this album to do the layout of the booklet!

"On Twilight Enthroned" is pretty much exactly what I think of if I needed to show someone the signature Swedish Black Metal sound. It has a degree of melody that a lot of other areas aren't really using as much. This is blended with haunting, yet seemingly beautiful passages, all the while they still manage to sound like a very intense Black Metal band. I definitely recommend checking this album out for that reason. The only problem I had with it is that they close with a cover song. Maybe this will mar some of my metal cred, but I hate this song. I hated it when Vader covered "Black Sabbath". The reason I really hate it on this album is because it completely takes me out of the atmosphere of the album when it shows up. It's really frustrating, because "On Twilight Enthroned" has a great presence and then that song shows up. Luckily Beretorn stuck with harsh vocals for the entire track, otherwise that would have turned out far worse.

Unfortunately this is Throne of Ahaz' last album. Other than Vargher it doesn't look like the other musicians involved in the project went on to do much of anything else. At least they put out two fine albums and hopefully people like me will continue to conjure some level of interest so they are not truly lost to the annals of history.

Throne of Ahaz - Nifelheim
No Fashion Records, 1995
Genre: Black Metal

1. Northern Thrones
2. An Arctic Star of Blackness
3. Where Ancient Lords Gather
4. The Dawn of War
5. Nifelheim
6. The Calling Blaze
7. A Winter Chant
8. The Kings that Were...

Throne of Ahaz's debut is the result of some seriously poor release problems. The result of this is that Throne of Ahaz would never really be able to make the impact they probably could have. I'm going to try and set the stage for this material in Sweden and on the No Fashion Record label. Despite the release date this material was recorded in 1993 in March! In 1993 No Fashion Record's released some of the most legendary material known to the extreme metal world. Catalog Numbers are really how I'm looking at this. The first in 1993 is NFR 004: Unanimated's "In the Forest of the Dreaming Dead, then NFR 005: Katatonia's "Dance of December Souls", NFR 006: Dissection's "The Somberlain", and NFR 007: Merciless' "The Unbound". That's what was happening in 1993 and things were going very strong... but then something happened and releases got held up for a long time. In 1995 No Fashion Records released NFR 008: Throne of Ahaz' "Nifelheim". This is why I'm pointing out this album could have been much larger than it was. By the time 1995 rolled around so much Black Metal had been produced and released in Sweden and surrounding nations that "Nifehlheim's" style came across as passe. Marduk was three albums in, for example, and Dissection was well established.

Possible big changes happened with Throne of Ahaz between the demo and this album. On guitar we have Whortael, who's real name is Niklas Svensson and he's played bass in a number of bands, but for this he's on guitar. This really is a night and day difference in approach musically, so unless Niklas' middle name is Peter... then we're probably dealing with an overhaul to Throne of Ahaz's sound. I wouldn't say it's a complete overhaul though, because the influence from bands like Marduk is certainly still there. Just listening to the opening of "The Dawn of War" reminds me of parts from "Dark Endless". While Throne of Ahaz still had slower sections that plodded along, like in the demo, there are a lot more faster sections with full on blast beats happening. Beretorn's vocals are particularly awesome on this release and are much improved from the demo days... which were only a year before. His voice comes off as stronger and far more powerful. The style Throne of Ahaz present on here, I think, is somewhere between Marduk and Dissection. They're not as insanely melodic as Dissection, but I think their atmosphere has a similar feel. This is, of course, after the standard influence from the Norwegian side of things. At times you can surely hear some early Darkthrone influence... but that's hard to avoid in Black Metal.

In the end, it's hard for me to say that Throne of Ahaz were truly breaking new ground in the world of Black Metal. However, they were performing as a very solid and band, and let's be serious, this was recorded before bands like Dark Funeral put anything out! I can't help but think that this would have had more clear recognition if it had been released on time. It is certainly a solid album and I really looked forward to hear their future albums... unfortunately there would be only one after this.

Throne of Ahaz - At the Mountains of Northern Storms
Self-Released, 1992
Genre: Black Metal

1. My Kingdom is Eternal
2. The Calling Blaze
3. At the Mountains of Northern Storms
4. Under the Fullmoon Light

I feel like Throne of Ahaz has sort of been lost to the annals of history, but they are one of the earliest Swedish Black Metal bands. While Swedish Death Metal had become well established and Melodic Death Metal had been born, the Swedish Black Metal scene was still a fledgling form around this time. Look at the date of this demo... 1992! This is before Arckanum, before Sorhin, befor Naglfar, before Dark Funeral,before a lot of the formative Black Metal bands people know today. Dissection and Marduk had already been formed, but they were still only producing demos. It's on these two projects where I think Throne of Ahaz had drawn some influence.

"At the Mountains of Northern Storms" is a demo from 1992 and on that merit you can't really judge it based on what we hear today. However, one of the interesting things we hear here is the culmination of some of the influence of the surrounding Swedish area. Throne of Ahaz plays a slower, more plodding style of Black Metal on this demo. This is very different compared to the style Marduk and Dissection were establishing, but like a lot of the early Swedish bands there is a degree of melody showing through. The pacing and heaviness reminds me of Death Metal at times, but there is certainly more of a focus on a Black Metal atmosphere being built. This leads me to conjure influences like Necrophobic, Grave, etc for some formative influences. I also figure early Abruptum was influencing some of the ideas on this release as well. Just listen to the keyboard outro on "The Calling Blaze" and an Abruptum influence seems clear.

With all these influences showing through, it leads me to an interesting problem. I can account for every musician on this demo except the guitarist. Metal-Archives claims it is Niklas Svensson, who was an active musician in the Swedish scene in the 90's, but the demo clearly states Peter is the guitarist. Maybe this is Niklas' middle name? I cannot find info on this, so if anyone knows who Peter refers to please let me know!

If the atmosphere of this album didn't lean so much in the Black Metal spectrum, I would probably class this early demo as a Black/Death release. The part that I really like about this demo is that Throne of Ahaz are playing a clearly different style of Black Metal from what others are trying to do. The slow and more brooding elements are sort of a new approach in some respects. Sure, bands have sections of that style, but there aren't many attempting this style at the time and the only one I can think of is Abruptum. Even though this demo may not stand the test of time, it is interesting to hear this relic from the old days for sure.

1 comment:

  1. The guitarist on the demo was a guy named Peter - don't know his last name. He was kicked out of the band after the demo and then Niclas joined in. You can read about it in several old interviews which you'll find, for example here