Thoren
Gwarth II

Gwarth II is Thoren’s 4th album. I’ll proceed as if the reader is wholly unfamiliar with Thoren because it’s no stretch to assume that you, like myself, probably are.  I believe this is of a metal craftsmanship even your long retired mechanical drafter grandpa can appreciate.  …Ha.  No.  He would screech at you to “turn the fuckin thing off!”, then put your cd to the table saw muttering about how Saigon was enough noise for a lifetime.  Thoren Gwarth II is technical metal-jazz for insomnia prone, but musically open minded, structural engineers.  Probably not cool Grandpa friendly, but I think 2000 years from now our AI evolved progeny may celebrate Thoren as an esoteric curio in the fossil record of human produced metal music.

The guitars sound like bridge cables being tension set.  Creaking steel strands being cranked and unwound from a large flatbed mounted reel. The playing technique employed sounds more like hammering and scraping of the strings than picking.  Per the promo bio drumming duties are split between the direct relation to Imperial Triumphant, drummer Kenny Grohowski, also of Secret Chiefs 3, and Alex Cohen, previously of chaos metal weirdos Pyrrhon. They do have different styles but the effect is largely the same due to the unique drum production choice.

The drums overall sound very mechanical but not lifeless in the way, say, digitally replaced hits do, but in the classic sense of machines that are comprised of meticulous, artfully designed components created from busy, layered hand drawn schematics, and assembled carefully by skilled workers. In this way, the kick drum most audibly sounds like a writer aggressively typing his own obituary on a well-maintained 1940’s Rheinemetall typewriter during a manic episode of 1am inspiration.

Interestingly enough, Thoren’s Bandcamp page claims a geographic location of Sterling Heights, Michigan.  A suburb of thee Motor City, Detroit.  Although we know it today as a specter of what that moniker once defined, it seems Thoren has been busy picking the automobile manufacturing graveyards clean to tinker purposefully on their aural metal sculpture.  After much heating, bending, riveting, and welding the result is a newly refined enhancement from Gwarth I to Gwarth II.  Subtle, but most notably, the production has been ground and polished.  Gwarth I was slightly more flat overall.  The guitar gain spread out wider.  Less tightly wound and wirey than Gwarth II. 

A very important compliment to the band is that, while I’m sure they have a fine sense for the very niche audience this music appeals to, they also know it’s 1. Instrumental, 2. Rather tonally dissonant, and 3. It’s the future and “ain’t nobody got time for that”.  Only 3 of 10 tracks break three minutes!  Yes followed by Yes.  Brevity is vital to listener impact.  More full on blasts such as “Vex” is appropriately contained to 1:41.   Longest track “Thaw Gur” has enough dynamic shifts to warrant the run time.  A few sections even settle on a more recognizably black metal run that breaks up the mad chamber skronk.  The sequencing is so very thoughtful in how the album winds down from tracks 8-10.  Where track 8 “Lithui” is a short, pensive, acoustic jazz exercise buffering track 9 “Suith”, the albums final aggressive number.  Which itself deftly deconstructs into spare puttering that functionally transitions to track 10 “Firen”, which is practically a continuation of “Lithui”.  The album is high minded yet still serves the listener by not being overbearing.

When reviewing albums, It’s always my goal not to use “ffo” comparisons to a list of other like bands, but through the descriptive writing to, if it’s strong enough, cause the reader’s mind to imagine what the music sounds like without having heard it before. Of course I mentioned already that members are in other freaky, fringe bands of note which gets you most of the way already.  However, while listening I could not help but to hear traces of a fellow contemporary non-traditional metal project Botanist.  There’s a parallel between the dulcimer of Botanist and how the combined guitar and drums on Gwarth II make me think of piano strings being hammered and simultaneously bowed into painful rapture.  The next free evening you have I recommend to pour yourself a glass of dry as Alaskan winter Pinot noir, put on the film Pi, muted in the background, play Gwarth II, and maybe start working on that effect pedal kit that’s been sitting on your kitchen table for a year.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mars Budziszewski
March 19th, 2020

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