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Ragnarok is another one of those bands that has been around forever steadily releasing albums but never getting their big break. My previous experience with the Norwegians has been limited to the awareness of their existence. But with their eighth studio album 'Psychopathology' out soon I thought it was time to grab their music by the horns.
What strikes me first on 'Psychopathology' is the obvious origin of the band. The composition and riff style are undoubtedly Norwegian bringing acts like Taake and 1349 to mind. Behind the Norwegian facade however the listener will also find notable influences from the Swedish scene, the grinding speed of Marduk and even more prominent are the melodic passages of acts like Naglfar. At times the music also strays into the folkish territories of Winterfylleth's more epic side.
Some of the eleven tunes are quite enjoyable indeed, most notably 'Dominance & Submission' and 'Heretic' which serve the listener with a nice slab of speedy Norwegian black metal with good riff structures. In theory I ought to enjoy this a lot more than I actually do given the influences. The main problem is that listening to the album from start to finish will give a much unfocused impression. Although sticking consistently to the well-established Norwegian formula, the melodic sections, above all, are a prominent part of the overall sound but fails to flow smoothly with the rest of compositions.
The extremely soulless (in a bad sense) production just enhances this schizophrenic feeling and further fails to bring out any prominent atmosphere or brutality from these songs. I was surprised to see Devo (Marduk) had signed the production job as he is usually one of the more consistently good black metal producers.
My feeling is that this album could have been given a proper boost by either a production with a razor-sharp subtle atmosphere or an upfront brutality Tsjuder-style. The actual end result though is just bland and harmless. As an additional icing on the moldy cake the vocals of Jontho, who left his drum stool for the microphone on this album, has a nice fundamental tone but quickly becomes monotonous.
Even though there are several enjoyable riffs and melodies
to be found on 'Psychopathology', the end results is a plain and divided
album. The former much due to the failed production job. I have a feeling
Ragnarok has taken a slightly different direction on this album compared
to their previous efforts regarding the songwriting style and/or the
production job. If not I guess the old fans will safely appreciate this
even though I prefer my black metal more focused.