THRALL, Vermin to the Earth (2011, Moribund)
Thrall not only love the skull, but they love the skull with snakes knotting themselves in and out of various cavities within our favorite boney body part. This one is a little more complex than the other Thrall art we featured way back in Skull183. While we like to take shots at all the stupid artwork that comes our way in this project, there’s nothing here to poke fun of. It’s a seriously great piece of art, and this Friar is especially down with the black blood dripping out of the skull’s eye sockets. Totally morbid.
I’d heard of Thrall quite a bit over the years, but never actually gave the band a listen until today. The first thing my ear goes to is the quality of the sounds. Not so much the songs, but the overall atmosphere. Thrall achieve an interesting sonic aesthetic: the guitars
are crisp and earthy, the drums dry and raw (but not dinky), the bass pumps out at just the right level, and the vocals are layed over everything perfectly, neither dominant nor buried. Other than a few minor effects on the vocals, everything sounds unadorned. Where that
might otherwise be a criticism (I dig studio manipulation), Thrall makes it work. It betrays a leaning toward traditional hard rock values, although Thrall don’t necessarily rock (well, “Plague of Man” sorta does). They don’t hide behind a ton of reverb or other effects, because they have the playing capability to twist sounds and melodies into otherworldly things without needing to overuse effects. But are the songs good? They’re okay. Something like “Oblivion” is even more than okay, featuring a couple interesting riffs. It partly exhumes the old-school simplicity of Bathory and Darkthrone, but with a kind of inspired intellectualism that resides in the realm of a band like Deathspell Omega, yet not quite that complex or tangled. Basically, Thrall straddles the line that separates ancient black metal and more modern approaches. I can continue to live without it — there’s probably not a metal sub-genre I’m pickier about than black metal — but I know a lot of people really like this band, and I can totally understand why.
— Friar Wagner