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Tharaphita
Iidsetel sünkjatel radadel

Starting a ‘pagan metal band’ which aims to blend the true, misanthropic heart of black metal with your national folk elements isn’t going to win you many prizes for originality these days, unless you’re a truly special entity with a touch of manic genius. Estonia’s Tharaphita struggled to set the world alight with this pattern on 2005’s “Primeval Force”, but I’m pleased to report that here is a welcome example of a band with enough self-awareness to step back and reassess their sound, before ruthlessly recreating themselves as something way more vital.

“Iidesetel Sunkjatel Radadel” opens with something of a folky aura, but the acoustic warmth present on the first track, along with its rather ponderous pace, don’t give the best indication of what is to come. Much more characteristic – and pleasing – is “Vahkturm”, with its driving, muscular riff, catchy, rousing chorus and triumphant solo. Tharaphita have taken a lot of the traditional, Nordic sound as a basis for this album, which serves them well; there is a lot of cold, reverb-laden guitar work, dealing out a nice dosage of melody – as on “Hullusesse” – but still retaining a genuine grimness. “Loodusviha” is strikingly reminiscent of Gorgoroth circa the year 2000, with its echoing, dark riffs, thundering drums and the masterful, snarling harsh vocals. Singer Ank’s switch from the cheesy cleanish vocals of “Primeval Force” to the alluring, confident, dominant growl present here is key to the massive improvement in Tharaphita’s sound.

This isn’t to suggest that the folk element has been completely eradicated; the acoustic interlude on “Raudes Haardes” is especially evocative, and a few of the tracks have a subtle, epic atmosphere under the noisy drum assault that lends a stirring pagan feel. Stand-out track “Surmatalv” has a far warmer tone, and its rock melodies are moving, providing excellent variation from the rest of the album. Also, the guitarists don’t blindly follow vintage Norway; melodic death bands have also had an influence, and there is a certain low-slung, loose, almost sexy tone to some of the rhythm work – most noticeable on the dirty break during “Hullusesse” – that adds real character.

This album isn’t a masterpiece in original black metal; the song structuring often wallows, and doesn’t quite make it to a climactic chorus, while the mix privileges the drums overmuch. However, the guitar is extremely pleasing, with the old-school and the modern tussling good-naturedly amongst the riffs and leads, and Ank has magically evolved into a top-class vocalist who dominates this powerful music. An enjoyable slice of pagan black metal, and auspicious for the future.

Author: Ellen Simpson
Zine: Vampire Magazine
www.vampire-magazine.com

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