Taking their name from a weapon in Tolkien’s ‘The Silmarillion’, the Polish crew behind Gurthang certainly know how to churn ‘em out – with ‘I Will Not Serve’ being their fourth album since forming in 2010. What they play is a deathly, funereally doomy take on black metal, with some nice bursts of speed when required and plenty of keyboard enhanced atmospherics.
Kicking the album off with ‘Nemesis’, the slow pace is immediate, with growled vocals orating over slow churning guitars, stirring in the darkness with piercing melody and swathes of synth work building cold atmospheres. Suddenly a burst of speed appears, destructively removing all the previously built atmosphere like a freight train through flesh and bones. ’Visions’ sees the band at their threatening best, bass twanging clearly and guitars scuttling in tremolo picked glory, before sweeping into another eerie passage lit by cooling keyboard work, adding a hanging fog to the gnarled guitars and hissed vocal approach. ‘Non Serviam’ has an almost Behemoth styled vibe to it, kicking into top gear from the off and rarely abating, while ‘Devouring the Echo’ sees the band entering their darkest of phases, throbbing and churning before another burst of anger sees them flying off the rails once more. The album finishes up with the longest track of the album ‘Szklany Okruch’, clocking in just short of ten minutes, it opens with a ringing feedback which slowly gives way to slowly struck power chords and a guttural scream, before slowly unravelling into what turns out to be clearly the doomiest track on the album by a country mile and a really strong song to finish on.
For me, Gurthang merely show what quality lay in the underground if you dig deep enough. With ‘I Will Not Serve’, they’ve created an album packed with atmosphere, good music and a powerful approach to songwriting. Whilst it won’t blow you into next week and you’ll likely have heard a lot of it before elsewhere, it still stands strong as an album and deserves a good listen.
(7/10 Lars Christiansen)