THULCANDRA
"Under a Frozen Sun"

(Napalm)

01. In Blood and Fire
02. Black Flags of Hate
03. Ritual of Sight
04. Under a Frozen Sun
05. Aeon of Darkness
06. Echoing Voices (A Cold Breeze of Death)
07. Gates of Eden
08. Life Demise (UNANIMATED cover)

RATING: 8/10

Making an album in record in overt tribute to a legendary band, such as DISSECTION, end up sounding like something more than rehashed, second rate material ain't easy. On debut album "Fallen Angel's Dominion", Germany's THULCANDRA not only cleared that hurdle with several feet to spare; they also did it with a freshness and spirit rarely heard from albums of its ilk. What's even harder? Following that debut with an album that clears that first hurdle and then avoids a sophomore jinx on its way to clearing the next is even tougher. Gosh darn, THULCANDRA have done just that with "Under a Frozen Sun". Few would have expected an album that topped "Fallen Angel's Dominion", at least in terms of magical aura, and THULCANDRA hasn't necessarily done it here. They have, however, recorded a more than worthy follow up that comes close to the greatness of its predecessor.

In the way of clarification, it should be pointed out that inspiration for "Under a Frozen Sun" came not only from the works for DISSECTION, but also those of UNANIMATED, SACREMENTUM, and VINTERLAND. The German group that includes in its ranks members of OBSCURA, HELFAHRT, and DARK FORTRESS even went so far as to polish up and breathe new life (death?) into UNANIMATED's "Life Demise". In the most general of terms, "Under a Frozen Sun" is a logical follow-up to "Fallen Angel's Dominion" in that the cold winds blow just as hard and the snow drifts pile just as high. The differences are found in the expansiveness of composition found on the new album, both in terms of pushing outward from the DISSECTION core and in moving in what could often be termed a more epic direction.

And it doesn't get much more epic than eight-minute opener "In Blood and Fire". The tune is made of tension-builds, ominous atmospherics, and section after section of black/death intensity that borders on the awe inspiring. Similar sentiments can be applied to the nine-minute "Gates of Eden". Both represent a vintage style as interpreted by first rate metal musicians playing intelligently arranged songs and update with a reasonable degree of modern studio technology. Actually, that defines pretty much the entirety of "Under a Frozen Sun". Equally impressive however are the more direct, outwardly aggressive numbers, the grand example a nasty beast of a song called "Black Flags of Hate" that packs ungodly amounts of pitch black malice into its three and a half minutes. In addition to the finely crafted melody construction, vocalist/guitarist Steffen Kummerer (OBSCURA) continues to put extra bite into these already frost-bitten tunes with his mid-range rasp.

"Under a Frozen Sun" also proves to be a bit of a grower. Complete digestion requires more time than usual, more so than was the case with "Fallen Angel's Dominion" in fact. It remains to be seen (or heard) whether the sophomore effort will go down as the better of the two releases, but there is no arguing that both are cut from the same cloth. Hair splitting aside, "Under a Frozen Sun" follows a great debut by bringing a strength all its own.

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