Thronehammer for those unfamiliar are a Pan-European outfit comprised of a UK/German crossover Kat Shevil Gillham (Uncoffined, Winds of Genocide, ex-Blessed Realm), Stuart West (ex-Obelyskkh, ex-The Walruz) and Tim Schmidt (Naked Star, Seamount). Their mission since their inception has been to carve out huge slabs of crushing doom that leans heavily on traditional influences, but coloured with modern flavouring and crossovers with other genres to freshen the approach.
Debuting their Usurper Of The Oaken Throne full length in 2019, their opening salvo was a weighty affair spanning eighty minutes of undiluted extremity and showed a lot of promise twisting together the sounds of Candlemass and Bathory that was, at times, a collision of epic melody and bleak punishment. Taking this foundation and seeking to turn their mission statement up to 11, their sophomore album Incantation Rites seeks to go harder, doomier and more bombastic in seven tracks of powerful, emotive, raw metal.
The title track kicks off with all the gravitas that you would expect, long ringing notes courtesy of West’s guitar, smashing drums thanks to Tim Schmidt and chanted, somber vocals drenched with the Hammer Horror theme’s of early Cathedral. Building the foundations of the atmosphere by starting with whispered voices and drums like a heartbeat, you can feel the tension as it rises to a grandiose crescendo.
Thy Blood contrasts this with an up-tempo canter, with majestically powerful vocals that could belong on some of the finest Grand Magus albums. The bedrock of the band relies heavily on the Teutonic riffs of West, respectful nods to his past work in Obelsykkh, but expanding with the others around him to create a fluid style incorporating deathly drums, My Dying Bride like crawls and the more in your face stylings of Church of Misery.
A huge standout on Incantation Rites is the epic A Faded King, a sprawling ten minute, twisted, muscular track that introduces a sludge drenched, blackened element into the proceedings. The dynamics constantly shift between lush melody and stoner groove, sharing comparisons with bands more associated with psychedelic blues, both majestic and melancholic.
a swirling, heady rush of space rock but dragged into darkness by the raw throated roar of Kat Shevil Gillham…
Almost separated into two parts by the lush instrumental break, the second half is a swirling, heady rush of space rock but dragged into darkness by the raw throated roar of Kat Shevil Gillham. The pure, filthy blackened sludge is a violent departure that drags Incantation Rites from a Summerisle sacrificial procession to a Slovakian Elite Hunting Club torture session.
Beneath Black Cloud Masses attempts to return to more well worn doom paths, but somehow ends up trying to reach progressive, melodic heights scaled by latter day Iron Maiden with the powerful, echoing refrain ‘Beneath black cloud masses’ intoned over and over.
Devouring Kingdoms is probably the weakest track on the album for me, it’s not bad by any means, it has all the elements Thronehammer have introduced throughout the album, but somehow it just feels a little less smooth, slightly disjointed as it tries to get to the killer blow. By the end the band get their groove back, so any complaints do feel a little churlish, but the stumble was noticeable coming off the back of two very strong tracks.
This issue could be born from the band striving to evolve; whilst they’re clearly accomplished and enjoy what they’re doing, you get the sense listening to this album it’s a band that are not done stylistically, they’ve more influences and avenues yet to explore to see how they can subvert their sound.
Incantation Rites is a leap on from their solid, but safe debut. At the time I heard Usurper of the Oaken Throne I was in the middle of some personal turmoil and whilst executed very competently, its overall impact got lost in the background noise of the time. Now in the midst of what is bizarrely an insanely hectic time, their follow up has stood out far more as it stylistic twists and turns, offering far more light and shade during the course of the seven tracks.
Thronehammer want to scale these lofty heights and stand shoulder to shoulder with the past, but also want to throw down and get dirty with some of the darkest corners of extremity in the modern era.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden