Ragnarok - Malediction
Agonia Records
Black Metal
10 songs (44:54)
Release year: 2012
Agonia Records
Reviewed by Charles
Eek! Weren’t Ragnarok one of the more tunefully-inclined black metal bands? They always blasted with intensity, sure, but there was also an extremely strong seam of melody running through records like 2004’s Blackdoor Miracle. Despite its abysmal title and cover art, that was a deeply impressive album; furiously up-tempo but also laden with lovely melodic hooks. The new look band (most notably, Hoest from Taake left in 2007 to be replaced by Svarttjern’s HansFryste) released Collectors of the King a couple of years back. I didn’t pay it much attention, but from the fragments I heard and the review Alex gave it here, it seems that part of the band’s sound was a little less pronounced, albeit recognisably the same project. This, though, is a big step towards a more abrasive, aggressive approach. Malediction is a fierce record- perhaps even a ‘brutal’ one in some respects.

The most striking thing about it lies in the riffing itself, which is conspicuously more caffeinated than it has been in the past. It jitters and zigzags hyperactively, sometimes coming on almost like a tech-thrash band. Listen to, say, the introduction to The Eleventh Seal, or (Dolce et Decorum est) Pro Patria Mori, both of which leap rapidly up and down scales with bite and precision. Compounding this new technical bent, the band also make heavy use of intricately-worked multiple lead lines. Divide et Impera, for example, adds a layer of garbled treble to its curiously winding guitar patterns, giving Ragnarok’s music a scratchy, cantankerous feel.

Things take an interesting turn at Dystocratic. This tune has a grandly NWOBHM-like opening, with twiddly twin lead lines a grandiose fanfare. The main body of the song gestures towards the band’s more conventional meloblack delivery, but something about the sound itself is strange. That tinny, rattling bass tone, perhaps, which speaks again to the tech-thrash likeness. The, again heavy, use of multi-layer lead guitars also hints at a gnarled melodeath influence such as At the Gates’s Terminal Spirit Disease. Elsewhere, there are occasional down-tempo grooves, like in Iron Cross- Posthumous, which don’t seem to work as well as they might because the overall sound is geared towards an altogether more lacerating delivery. Though, I must admit that the slower sections collide very effectively with their flashy speed metal-influenced neighbours in The Eleventh Seal.

Malediction, then, suggests a slight change in direction for Ragnarok, more inclined towards the more technical edges of black metal and even straying towards furious thrash. The sound, customised for biting pace rather than booming meloblack atmosphere, might disappoint longer-term fans of the band looking for windswept Noridc anthems; , but there are also some very impressive elements to the album.

Killing Songs :
The Eleventh Seal, (Dolce et Decorum Est) Pro Patria Mori, Divide et Impera
Charles quoted 78 / 100
Other albums by Ragnarok that we have reviewed:
Ragnarok - Collectors of the King reviewed by Alex and quoted 72 / 100
Ragnarok - Blackdoor Miracle reviewed by Alex and quoted 91 / 100
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