Enthroned- “Sovereigns”

Enthroned Sovereigns

Regular readers of Black Metal & Brews know it’s a rare occasion for me to review an album by a well established band. Hell, it’s a rare occasion when I even have the opportunity to review such an album. Still, this is a website of merit, not of solely championing the unheard bands, and Belgian black metal heavyweights Enthroned’s tenth album, Sovereigns, is certainly worthy of my praise and examination. I feel it needs to be mentioned here that this is my introduction to Enthroned. While their name has been in my periphery for ages and I’m pretty sure I heard a few tracks off 2004’s XES Haereticum, I had generally placed them in some category of bands that I’m aware of but don’t listen to, alongside other acts like Dark Funeral and Watain. I’ve often been slow to come around to bands whose name I hear well before the music, but if Sovereigns is any indication, I’ve got some black metal history to study.

While the opening build-up of “Anteloquium” does a good job of creating the sounds of a war party preparing for a savage battle, the album could have just as easily started with “Sine Qua Non” and been off to an equally intimidating start. There’s just a sheer hugeness of sound that I’m not used to here, perhaps because I specialize in demos and rawer music, but man it works so well for Enthroned’s brand of black metal. The precision of the drumming paired with the ferocity of Enthroned’s guitar work makes for seamless transitions in both speed and mood. Trudging, anxiety-inducing slower moments easily give way to blastbeats and tastefully layered vocals that always feel larger than life but never stray into the excessive territory that puts me off from so many other well established black metal acts. The ability to be ferocious without being over the top and obnoxious is harder to achieve than it should be, but on songs like (my personal favorite) “The Edge of Agony” Enthroned proves that aggression can be paired with melody and care to great effect.

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There’s also a surprisingly persistent melodic side to Enthroned that I had never imagined they would have. Of course it’s hard to say if this is a consistent theme in their career, but rather than the bestial black/death approach I’d envisioned, the mastery of atmosphere displayed on Sovereigns is astonishing. I’ll admit that I even wanted to find myself unimpressed by this album. Not out of some sort of elitist inclination but because in aspiring to uphold journalistic integrity, I feel like a band twenty years into its career should be producing groundbreaking albums or giving it up. While this isn’t necessarily reinventing a genre, this album won’t leave my headphones lately. The album’s only real weak moment comes during “Lamp of Invisible Lights,” when the band tries to drop in an ambient passage of sorts with spoken word. It’s not bad necessarily, but the song is otherwise one of the most compelling on the album and I find myself waiting for the song to get back to its core trajectory during this passage. That said, I feel like I would have enjoyed this album as a whole just as much when I was a teenager as I do now. The broad appeal shouldn’t be a hindrance for the more discriminating listener though, as this has appeal simply because it is well executed.

Enthroned Sovereigns Box

Sovereigns is now on sale from Agonia Records and is well worth at least giving a look. In addition to black vinyl and limited clear splatter vinyl, there’s a pretty impressive CD box set limited to 333 copies that comes with a flag, a patch, and a lighter. If I had the funds to do so, I’d be getting the box and a record for myself right away. Since I cannot, I highly urge my readers to do so on my behalf.