OV HELL
"The Underworld Regime"

(Prosthetic)

01. Devil's Harlot
02. Post Modern Sadist
03. Invoker
04. Perpetual Night
05. Ghosting
06. Acts of Sin
07. Krigsatte Faner
08. Hill Norge

RATING: 7/10

The lengthy and complicated GORGOROTH legal battle was the messiest of messes that left one wondering what good would ever come out of it. One album that emerged from the smoke and ashes of the dispute was originally intended, in one form or another, to be a GORGOROTH and then a GOD SEED album that ultimately turned into "The Underworld Regime" from a Norwegian black metal superstar outing called OV HELL. Featuring bassist King Ov Hell (GOD SEED, ex-GORGOROTH), vocalist Shagrath (DIMMU BORGIR), drummer Frost (1349, SATYRICON), and guitarists Ice Dale (ENSLAVED) and Teloch (ex-GORGOROTH), "The Underworld Regime" is an able-bodied effort, probably even better than some of the naysayers expected. Adding to the oddity, what previously may have been considered a strange pairing, the album is released on Prosthetic Records. However, with the release on 1349's "Demonoir", among others, the label has been broadening its horizons.

With the kind of lineup listed above, the potential for heartbreaking disappointment was high. Fortunately, "The Underworld Regime" throws a lot of connecting punches that won't thrust them into the upper tier of the black metal elite, but will easily endear them to fans of traditionally based, updated and compositionally sound black metal. Rather than taking a route that blast beats 'em all and lets the horned one sort 'em out, the album pairs speedy staccato ripping with song-based arrangements that are allowed to breathe, leaving room for the listener to discover new favorites with every spin. Songs such as "Devil's Harlot", "Post Modern Sadist", "Acts of Sin", and "Invoker" offer loads of pointy riffs, Frost's percussively dexterous drumming, and wise use of atmospherics (choral bits, hellish gang vocals, etc). Shagrath's croaky vocals are one of the highlights; the feelings conveyed through his delivery have a way of chilling to the bone and forcing the listener to pay strict attention. Most interesting is the way the spikiness of the riffs, combined with Shagrath's vocals, are reminiscent of IMMORTAL, to a certain extent coming off more potent than what was heard on "All Shall Fall". Take it with a grain of salt and call it sacrilege if it makes you feel better, but it's true.

Assuming OV HELL is able to stabilize and distance itself from the trauma of the past, the potential for future blockbuster releases is vast. As it stands, "The Underworld Regime" is a convincing starting point and a pretty good black metal album.

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