Troll
Neo-Satanic Supremacy

An interesting fact about trolls: besides lurking under bridges, in forests and on message boards, they’re also able to change their form at will – usually to trick the humans they like to torment. I mention this only because Troll, the Norwegian black metal band started by Nagash (Covenant/The Kovenant, ex-Dimmu Borgir) in 1992, has also gone through a few changes of its own over the years.

Debut Drep De Kristne (in 1996) was an atmospheric and keyboard-heavy release, with appropriately ragged, trollish riffs and Nagash’s surprisingly raw vocals. (Well worth searching out if you’re feeling nostalgic for the sound plied at the time by other bands like …And Oceans, Thy Serpent, Old Man’s Child, Gehenna, etc). 2000’s The Last Predators, and its follow-up, Universal (which was recorded on the same day) changed up a few things. The guitars and songwriting became thrashier and less blackish/folky, and previous members Fafnir and Glaurung (who did not appear on Drep De Kristne) rejoined, with Fafnir taking up vocals under the name Sinister Mister Twice. His is an odd vocal performance, sneering and theatrical (and for some reason, I want to say… French – maybe it’s the resemblance to Anorexia Nervosa’s Hreidmarr.) Unfortunately, there was one more change in store – Universal’s second half inexplicably brings in big dance beats and industrial flavors, but they’re not integrated nearly as well as they were on The Kovenant’s inescapably catchy/cheesy 1999 release, Animatronic.

You have to wonder what drove all that musical soul-searching and sound-shifting, especially given that Nagash was involved in other bands treading similar ground. In any case, it seems he’s learned something from all of that, which is why Neo-Satanic Supremacy sounds like a blend of the previous albums’ best elements – and without an industrial beat to be heard.

Overall, it’s a return to the symphonic black metal sound of Drep De Kristne, but the guitars have retained their sharpness and definition from the latter two albums. Tracks like “Alt for Satan,” “Ga til Krig” and personal favorite “Morkets Skoger” feature an even mix of heaving keyboards and scrambling, icy riffs, while the title track is a much speedier, less ornamented affair. Some tracks like “Burn the Witch” and “Age of Satan” are even built around memorable choruses, but without sacrificing any of venom or edge.

I also expect that Nagash has been paying attention to his old bandmates in Dimmu Borgir over the years, because the orchestration is much more sweeping and grandiose throughout the album. In fact, though Dimmu Borgir is sometimes criticized for not being a pure black metal band – it injects power metal, thrash and death metal into its signature blackened pomp – 2010’s Troll is what Dimmu would have sounded like had they followed up the original Stormblast with something buzzier, faster and less bombastic than Enthrone Darkness Triumphant and the albums that followed. (Not that I’m complaining though, I loved all of those).

If there’s one major criticism I have of this album though, it’s the title and imagery. Not that I expected anything subtle from a band whose debut was about trolls killing Christians, but at least that’s an unique, slightly exotic take on the usual Satanic nonsense. This doesn’t even have that novelty to rely on. Maybe it’s a purely marketing-driven decision – perhaps Satan makes everything seem more extreme, particularly if you’re 14 years old – but I generally find the whole business to be embarrassing. And yeah, Dimmu does it too, but they’re so overwrought that it bleeds over into high camp. The branding here just comes off as uninspired, redundant and juvenile.

/begin rant – it’s doubly infuriating because for the anti-religion stance that many of these bands take, they’re not actually communicating anything of intellectual worth. There’s plenty of convincing, clear-eyed work being written and published by contemporary atheists and biblical critics, so why not take some inspiration from them? Yeah, it’d be drier and more serious, but it’d also add a touch of elegance and respectability. But I guess goats and hellfire and jagged pentagrams sell albums, not Richard Dawkins, Dan Barker or Sam Harris. /end rant

Anyway, though Neo-Satanic Supremacy doesn’t tread any new ground (and stubbornly sits in the mire in other respects), this is the best thing that Troll has done – and, I’m tempted to say, that Nagash has done as well. It’s sharp, entertaining, melodic and not too over-produced, which makes it a damn fine addition to the symphonic black genre. Hopefully next time Troll will attempt one more change and really make a mark.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
January 4th, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: Biff Tannan

    Sam Harris Ist Kreig !!!!


  2. Commented by: Biff Tannan

    Seriously, Sam Harris fucking RULES. That man has the rare gift of shaping everything I’ve thought in my life about religion into razor sharp cerebral bullets. I can’t wait for him to write something new.


  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    he comes on a bit strong (which makes it hard to give him to someone who you’re trying to gently persuade) but his logic and reasoning are irrefutable.

    btw have you seen this? the single best – and funniest – piece of atheist writing I’ve seen in a long time.

    http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/guestessays/religion101.html


  4. Commented by: Biff Tannan

    Haha ! No , I hadn’t seen that. Time to print it and pass it around work…thanks!


  5. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Fine review again ‘cept I disagree with this being the best album Nagash has ever made. Covenant’s Nexus Polaris is his magnum opus. Sverd tinkling the ivories, Hellhammer hitting the skins and Sarah Jezebel Deva opening her mouth (not for sucking but for musical notes, my sick pups). Hardly gets any better than that.


  6. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I like Nexus Polaris a lot too but why does Nagash sound like Popeye on half the album? Go listen to Bizarre Cosmic Industries again and tell me you don’t hear that.


  7. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Hahahaha never thought of his voice like that. I’ll give it a spin and compare.


  8. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Well, when he’s doing the whispery parts he does sound a lot like Popeye. Fuck, now I’ll be constantly on the lookout for the Popeye voice. Guess it’s karma’s way of repaying me for ruining Muse, Radiohead and Ihsahn to a friend of mine. I mentioned they all take very noticeable breaths when singing and it drove her crazy. Damn you, Gaba!


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