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EMPYREAN THRONE Chaosborne

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 12:59 AM


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EMPYREAN THRONE
Chaosborne

M-Theory




There is an awful lot of Northern Europe in the symphonic black metal bombast presented on the cataclysmic full-length debut from Southern California's EMPYREAN THRONE. The majestic fury of EMPEROR and IMMORTAL, pomp and classical grandeur of DIMMU BORGIR and CRADLE OF FILTH, the folksy quirks of PRIMORDIAL or BORKNAGAR are all there in abundance, as are the blackened death tinges of BEHEMOTH, among other things.

Chaosborne, which follows the 2013 EP Demonseed, is the very anti-thesis of “true black metal” minimalism. Indeed, it is utter maximalism, taken to the nth. Everything about the album is HUGE!, from the thunderous production (via ANAAL NATHRAKH mastermind Mick Kenney, who knows a thing or two about bringing the noise) and titanic arrangements to the conceptual aspirations and the band's over-the-top delivery. “Too much” apparently is not in EMPYREAN THRONE's vocabulary, and as a result Chaosborne ends up being a rather apt title for the album as the band tries cram as much in as it can.

The 11-song, nearly 70-minute offering boasts one epic after another, concluding with the massive “Follow The Plaguelord Part II: The Harbinger Ov Pestilence” that cracks the 9-minute mark and lives up to the ostentatiousness of its title. And EMPYREAN THRONE doesn't wait long in getting down to the business of “bigness”.

After an ominous start, “The Twilight Order” introduces soaring clean choruses, choir-like backing vocals and a drapery of keyboards, all of which grow more pronounced as the tempos and intensity pick up for “Sed Nomini Tuo Da Gloriam”. Enter the string accoutrements - by cellist Kakophonix – on “Usurping The Obsidian God”, where they figure quite prominently, as they do later on “Haereticus Stellarum Part I”.

Here, too, frontman Andrew Knudsen – the rest of the band, save for drummer Leviathan, apparently hasn't gotten around to giving itself proper black metal noms de guerre yet – adopts the alternating scream/almost spoken froggy growl of DIMMU BORGIR's Shagrath as the band's influences grow more obvious as the album progresses.

The comparatively simple and direct “And None Shall Rise...” and “From The Mouth Ov The Black Icons”, despite the chants that intrude upon their choruses, are the most brutally effective tracks here. But “None” comes across almost as a segue - being sandwiched between the monumental “Usurping” and amply orchestrated “The Devouring Mark” - and things grow progressively grander and more convoluted after “Black Icons", which marks the album's mid-point. It's all downhill from there, I guess you could argue.

Credit where its due, though, to EMPYREAN THRONE for its ambitiousness and audacity. The band goes all in on Chaosborne and seems to capture massive scale it was aiming for – Kenney certainly helps in that regard, as this is a great sounding album to be sure. It took most of the bands that influence the sound here a good number of albums to reach the sonic level EMPYREAN THRONE hit as relative rookies – though the budgetary and technological disadvantages of “back in the day” were certainly contributing factors there.

But with that time also came the experience to both develop a sound and a knack for incorporating the elements to build on it. And while nearly all of the bands mentioned above ended up going overboard at some point – some much more than others – the process of getting to that point yielded some truly legendary work.

EMPYREAN THRONE, however, opt for overboard from the outset. And while there are definitely some stellar moments throughout Chaosborne, and a magnificent, crushingly heavy presentation, the album rings rather hollow overall, with few songs standing out because of everything that is going on around them. Too much is sometimes just that, and Chaosborne is too much and then some.

2.5 Out Of 5.0

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