Ragnarok – Psychopathology (Agonia)

Friday, 11th March 2016
Rating: 7.5/10

You could look at Norway’s Ragnarok like this: When all else fails in the topsy-turvey world of black metal circa 2016, you can go to them; they won’t steer you in the wrong direction. The long-running BM troupe is more inflexible than ever, which given the aforementioned circumstances, carries some weight. The band’s new Psychopathology (their eighth album in a career that now spans over 20 years) is quite the menacing, scathing creature, albeit with little, if any dynamic sprawl. It’s one of those “batten down the hatches” albums, but not much else.

Such sentiments stem largely from the band’s one-dimensional approach, which is blast-attack black metal. Buffered by a quality production job, Psychopathology is thrust instantly out of raw and sub-territory, recalling the stretch in the ’00s when most bands preferred to have a production job resembling “professional.” Nevertheless, the audio overload that accompanies frenzied, over-the-top cuts like “I Hate” (tremolo picking to the max!) and “My Creator” puts Ragnarok at the forefront of whatever extreme metal black accounts for these days. And when tossed around with mounds of dissonance, wind-tunnel chord movements, and the gravity-inducing blasts of drummer Malignant, and it’s an album at the level (or whereabouts) of Marduk and Dark Funeral’s most inspired moments.

The career-long premise of Ragnarok, obviously, has been to push the extremity envelope as far as it will go. Sure, there’s no veritable “breakout” album in the band’s discography (a trip through time will reveal their early ’00s output has some merit), but Ragnarok’s ever-immovable nature, coupled with their head-first, fuck-it-all approach is commendable on Psychopathology.

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