DECADES #1: THORNS “S/T” – 10 Years Underneath the Universe

Insiders awaited this like a Messiah. Snorre W. Ruch (aka Blackthorn) had reappeared in the musical events (after being jailed for complicity on Euronymous’ murder by Varg Vikernes) with the “Thorns vs. Emperor” 1999 split. But the self-titled debut on 2001 came to restore Order in a subgenre seemingly stagnating during the late 90s. The seeds of blackmetal renaissance had been planted though, through “Written In Waters”, “Rebel Extravaganza” and, of course, “666 International”. But nothing of them might be the same were it not for those THORNS tapes (“Grymyrk” & “Trøndertun”) back 1991-92.

The above prologue was written to show that THORNS debut was definitely not a comet from out of nowhere, yet the artistic and creative completion of those old ideas. It was fulfillment of that special Trondheim artist’s vision. And that’s maybe why its successor is still delayed; how can you overcome perfection? In its 48 minutes, one can find Norwegian blackmetal (more unique than ever), techno-thrash innovations straight from the VOIVOD sphere, as well as spacey, cold and repetitive rhythms (“Shifting Channels” is almost shocking with its inhumanity) are blended in a (dis)harmonic symbiosis. In this record guitar plays the key role with Snorre carving new ways through his riffing-forwards-riffing-backwards style as this is presented in the second part of “Underneath The Universe” e.g. where the listener is gradually lifted and floating until devoured by the infinite space.

Famous contributors are featured in these recordings, such as Hellhammer playing the drums, endowing the album with variety and dynamics in a rhythm section which would probably sound somewhat deficient and without diversity had it been solely based upon drum-programming. Mighty Aldrahn and Satyr can be heard behind the microphone showing their vocal talent. Their duet in the aforementioned “Underneath The Universe” is nothing less than paranoid. Along with them, Blackthorn undertakes a significant part of the lyrical aspect, where he, far from naive satanic verses and wanna-be evilness, provides almost terrifying lines with the coldness of his words in “Interface To God” and “Vortex” (where he makes a haunting speech himself). And he surprises us when, against the subgenre’s dominant misanthropic current, he chooses to praise the Human in “Stellar Master Elite”.

The impact of this album was definitely huge. Although unique to the bone, THORNS debut achieved in maintaining the flame and direct approach of Norwegian blackmetal before it was degenerated into yet another trend. And this is why it was widely well received from the bm fans, but also managed to catch the attention of many followers of extreme experimental sound in general, who craved for innovation in a metal scene otherwise drowned by its clichés. Through this album more people embraced that era’s releases by MAYHEM, DHG, SATYRICON, FLEURETY and even ULVER.

Of course, many tried to copy that sound in the next years but sadly none was successful. But parts of that music (especially its strange, “movement”-like riffing) survived in several contemporary bands that acquired their potions of inspiration from here and moved on to pursuit their own sonic Ithaca. If, however, you want to listen to something worthy and similar to the THORNS sound, try PLUTONIUM and ANGSTRIDDEN. Or you can wait as well for the new album. If it ever comes out…

~ by antifleshnimbus on April 29, 2011.

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