The Ugly. Now there’s a name for a black metal band. This is the third full length from this Swedish horde, my first meeting with them and I guess they pretty much lay out their plan of attack from about a minute into the title track. After the stark, ponderous intro the song charges in on a drum battery and pretty much rips your throat out. The production is clear and brings up the treble and guitar as the engine room just finds top gear and locks it in. It’s also worth noting that the snarled vocals here are remarkably clear; the lyrics come through quite audibly, rather like, say, Amon Amarth and despite the obvious black metal sounds of The Ugly this does weirdly give a little nod to the Northmen, just a pinch of death metal. The rest of the sound I guess owes a little to Marduk in its dense, full frontal attack and maybe if you listen hard there’s a little touch of early Immortal in the melodic sensibility of the guitar sound, a sprinkle of Watain. But mostly this sounds like The Ugly, a very good thing.

It’s all tight as all hell here, precise. Gnarly yes but pretty clean compared to some. Maybe I was expecting some bestial rampage from the name but to be honest this is more panzer-like in its engineering. I also must go to the lyrics which, as noted, are remarkably audible for a black metal band and in English: On ‘Dressed In Death pt II'(I assume pt 1 was on a previous release) their storytelling style again brings to mind Amon Amarth (not musically though) but they are also shockingly kind of dark, gothic and… dare I say it… almost romantic! In a doomed and violent way sure,  but still. This narrative approach to lyrics runs throughout the album, again a nice departure from the preaching approach of many. Kudos for cutting against the grain there to be sure.

I guess the only real issue I find here on Thanatology is that, breakdowns aside, this is pretty much full speed ahead for the whole of the album. I suppose fans of early 1349 and Marduk will have not one jot of a problem with this but I found it a little hard going by the end. Some people find this approach fine though so more a note I guess rather than an actual issue.

Yeah The Ugly manage to slip more than a little of their own identity into this album without slipping a gear in their full on attack mode, and deliver a good dose of Swedish black metal. With a little added thwarted love…

(7/10 Gizmo)