Enthroned – The Architects of AgonySunday, 8th June 2014
For black metal bands originating from the 90s, a storyline usually accompanies them, and it’s usually a not-for-kiddies one. The relentlessly-flogged early 90s Norwegian BM scene has predicated this; that, in order to have a “name,” one must’ve done something criminal, or in essence, something vastly stupid. In the pre-internet age, it was the best way to get attention, alongside releasing quality albums, something the frontline of the Norwegian scene grasped. Therefore, the coupling of arson and/or murder and/or some type of petty crime alongside scathing Scandinavian sounds was the formula for success. For most. Not all.
Case in point, Belgium’s unsung Enthroned. Formed during the most optimal years, 1993, the band spent the better part of their early days honing the contemporary sounds of Emperor and Gorgoroth, and altering it until the BM masses started paying attention around the dawn of the new century. Their 2003 opus Carnage in Worlds Beyond was the band’s first step toward notoriety, dutifully performing the black arts with a fervent degree of extremity without the adjacent sideshow. Since then, the band has been all business and consistency, something that couldn’t be more evident on their new (and rather good) Sovereigns.
“Our purpose has always been to play intense black metal, pounded with brutality and atmospheres related to the concepts,” begins guitarist Neraath, who is the second-longest tenured member of the band behind founder/vocalist Nornagest. “Despite the passing years, we’ve always remained faithful to our original roots, but evolved in terms of sound and approach.”
The band eclipsed the 20-year mark last year, a feat of epic proportions given the large turnover often found within European black metal. Suffice it to say, there was no massive blow-out in honor of this achievement, but the band didn’t let it go unnoticed. “We did recognize and somehow been proud of still dedicating our writing to such an act,” says Neraath. “I think our way to celebrate it has been to create this new album in an intensive short time of composing and recording, [and] make it spontaneous and authentic.”
One has to wonder how the band made it through the perilous early 00s, when black metal effectively became a dirty word thanks to the proliferation of sound-alikes and trend-chasers. For a mid-level band like Enthroned, such events would generally be a death-knell, particularly when Gothic sounds started to infiltrate the scene. ‘Twas not the case for Enthroned, according to Neraath.
“Nevertheless it was easy or not, Enthroned has always been doing its thing, regardless the scene and its evolution,” he says. “Black metal has such a vibe that keeps it out of trends, so whatever sound or production you may have, the most important remains the intensity and the devotion. Playing this style is definitely not a lead to success on a large scale.”
“Simply dedication and belief in what we’re playing,” he continues when asked how a Belgium black metal band was able to survive. “As musicians united with a specific vision and purpose, time is no barrier to achieve what we’re meant to do with this band.”
Sovereigns, it appears, is the band’s most furious, yet deliberate album to date, locked and stocked with Enthroned hallmarks such as blindingly-fast riffing, even faster drummer, resulting in a sort of controlled chaos that is difficult to harness. Enthroned, though, are old pros at this, and according to Neraath, the goal at the onset of writing and recording the album was clear. “The whole process of songwriting went very fast. We had our conceptual idea, and out of it, the purpose was to make an impetuous album, keeping it wild and moody.”
During the run-up to the album’s release, Enthroned’s label, Agonia Records, streamed nearly every song off the album, giving would-be buyers (and listeners) an opportunity to check out the album piecemeal. In what is now a very common record company tactic, one has to wonder how that would sit with a band as conceptual as Enthroned.
“The best way to appreciate the album is definitely to listen the whole of it in one piece,” says Neraath.” Like [how] many albums are made…But this streaming process has a marketing approach, as the label know what to do to catch attention, and of keep its business going on, regarding the all web piracy.”
And what about those who outright steal the album, forsaking the album’s alluring artwork, which coincidentally, was created by the guitarist?
“It never discouraged me, as I first do this for my own,” replies Neraath. “There are every type of listeners, some who only care about the music, whatever support, and the others, collectors and package fanatics. There will always been people interested in the whole product and packaging, and I think these [people] will experience more in terms of understanding.”
The remainder of 2014 should find the band as active as ever, aided by what is perhaps their most stable lineup to date, thanks to the recent additions of Menthor and ZarZax. “Both invested much themselves in the composition and recording, and regarding their ambition, they fit perfectly within the band,” says Neraath.
“Apart from touring, there will be some single concerts here and there, as well as some festivals to promote the release,” he finishes. “Each time we have an event, it is promoted. We did not discussed neither started yet new compositions for the future.”