GORGOROTH, Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt (2009, Regain)
My, look at those cavernous eye sockets. This skull manages to look as bleak and grim as the band’s music sounds. It hovers above a black abyss, and the wood-carved design adds a bit of an ancient or medieval vibe to this simplistic yet totally effective album cover. Let’s face it, some of the album covers we treasure here at BDS are a joke, artistically, but this one is truly good.
Gorgoroth’s eighth album came in the wake of not a little controversy over the band’s name, ex-singer Gaahl’s coming out of the closet, and leader Infernus being accused of all manner of criminal activity, from kidnapping, rape and illegal possession of weapons. Assembling a new band in the form of session drummer Tomas Asklund (also known from Dawn) and bassist Boddel (aka Frank Watkins of Obituary) and welcoming back vocalist Pest, Quantos… manages to be the most interesting Gorgoroth album since 2000’s Incipit Satan and it compares favorably to the band’s classic mid ’90s stuff. But it’s different too. Quantos… sports a clean production and is more melodic than most of their other albums, yet it still does what Gorgoroth does best: cold, epic, ferocious black metal with a few nods to ancient heavy metal traditions (though not quite as overboard as Darkthrone’s last several albums. They ain’t Agent Steel and never will be.) The variety of tempos and textures keeps this album from feeling static, and while Pest’s one-trick pony snarl can get tiring, he puts in a great performance nonetheless. The moments of clean vocal in “Human Sacrifice” are effective in breaking up the monochromatic screeching elsewhere. Infernus offers hypnotic layers and interesting chord choices throughout the album, showing that, despite all the crap he endured and inflicted in the years prior to this recording, he remains a master of black metal guitar. And it’s quite alright if Gorgoroth is taking several years to make records these days, as long as the quality remains on the level displayed here. Quite why Infernus lost his mind and re-recorded 1997’s perfectly-fine-as-it-was Under the Sign of Hell again in 2011, rather than working on new material, remains one of his more questionable moves. Still, Gorgoroth remains king.
— Friar Wagner