Enthroned – Sovereigns (Agonia Records)

Tuesday, 22nd April 2014
Rating: 8/10

Enthroned have spent the better part of their 20-plus years as a band not stepping on anyone’s toes, or pissing the keyboard ninjas off. Such things will happen when a.) Your catalog doesn’t boast a divisive album; and b.) You’re a Belgian black metal band, which apparently to some, is grounds for not being taken seriously. And sure, some of Enthroned’s mid-00’s output didn’t exactly hover around awe-inspiring territory, but they kept the band afloat, and in the collective black metal conscious. So simply as a result of staying the course and out of everyone’s hair, the time is now, it seems, for the band to have their moment in the sun with Sovereigns, arguably their best effort to date.

Per the usual with the Belgians, technicality and production aspects aren’t much of an issue – they’ve always been top-rung in these facets. Their riff melds usually involve some variation of difficult, angular chord work, most of which grapple with total extremity and a somber, but not prevailing atmosphere. A lot of that rings true on Sovereigns, where the hyper blasting of “Of Feathers and Flames” grinds the gears in classic mid-90s style. “The Edge of Agony” is an even more of a furious rush, with an undertone of spiraling guitars setting the pace, while the whirlwind of guitar peddles on “Diving Coagulation” is an instant highlight; a momentous, relentless number with a stockade of virile, no-frills BM elements.

Hold-steady, utterly true and reliable bands like Enthroned should have more value in today’s rather flimsy black metal scene. An album like Sovereigns isn’t going to rattle the status quo, yet it’s a caustic reminder that impenetrable black metal as this will forever stand the test of time. Alas, this is Enthroned’s apex.

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