Wrath Of Ragnarok – Deflagration

Big step up here. Wrath Of The Ragnarok’s last LP was decent enough musically, but it was plagued by awful production, an overly long running time, and a general sameness and unremarkability of material. All these issues have been more or less resolved on ‘Deflagration’ resulting in an album many times better than ‘The Pouring Of The Seventh Vial’. Everything is simply more solid, and the even more traditional bent of the music here just seems to fit the band perfectly.

Most of the growled vocals have been lost in favor of cleans. The guitars now sound good; still blunt, but nowhere near as muffled as they were before. The drumming is subdued, but much clearer. Riffing has become much more established, and also more memorable: they benefit from the added wait and textural articulation that the improved production brings greatly. Leads are similarly improved: more melodic, easier to hear, and just generally better. Above and beyond the merely aesthetical changes, the band have become better songwriters as well: they go for the Pentagram style laced with a harder, more modern edge, and it actually works. The speed has been taken back a notch, which is a huge part of conveying the heaviness of the riffs; on ‘The Pouring Of The Seventh Vial’, these monolithic trad doom riffs were played too quickly, not allowing the individual chords the time to sink in. Perhaps it could be taken back just a little more as well on here, but I can’t complain.

The running time of this album, ten minutes less than the previous one, is an absolute godsend. The material is tighter and doesn’t quite drag on as long as it did, so the album is a great deal more palatable as a full piece. A real leap has been made between albums, from competent yet indecisive to skilled and clear-headed. There are still a couple issues, of course. The clean vocals are fine when they’re actually singing, but most of the time it just sounds like Lee Smith is talking over the music, and not even particularly rhythmically. On the occasions that he does sing, the vocals are perfectly satisfactory, if somewhat hesitant, so why go with the talking? There’s really no reason. The other issues are more a matter of degree: the production is much better but could still be improved, the album is shorter but could be shaved down more still, etc. But with how much the actual music has improved, these issues are relatively minor in the scheme of things.

While I was rather hesitant in my recommendation of ‘The Pouring Of The Seventh Vial’, saying that it was primarily of interest to traditional doom fans, I feel that ‘Deflagration’ has a much greater potential for widespread appeal. Give this a try: most of the problems of the previous LP have been worked out, making this one quite worthwhile to pursue, even if you aren’t generally a pure traditional doom fan. But those people will get more out of it, of course: I imagine the Hellride crew wouldn’t mind this at all. Pretty good, all things considered.

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~ by noktorn on September 18, 2007.

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