Renowned for his vocal work with Norwegian black metal luminaries Ancient, Lord Kaiaphas has proven himself to be a formidable force within the subgenre. His theatrical vocals added dramatic depth to two of the band’s classic releases, The Cainian Chronicle and Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends. His latest project, Thokkian Vortex, focuses on a melodic and synth-driven approach to black metal that could be comparable to Ancient’s, while being less gothic and more experimental.
The band’s 2016 debut, Into the Nagual, delivers an enjoyable if not groundbreaking slice of black metal infused with a variety of influences and ominous, sometimes melancholy synths. ‘My Frostqueen’ opens the album with chilling strings, before giving way to the heavily distorted riffing, blasting drums and inhuman vocals that make up the bulk of the album. The album’s lyrics deal mostly with occult and Satanic themes, with mythological and religious references scattered throughout the release, adding another layer of interest for discerning listeners. In contrast, the following track, ‘The Funereal Winds Beckon My Return’, evokes the cold natural landscapes that inspires black metal through scything, melodic riffs – one of the album’s highlights.
Other highlights of the album include ‘Huginn and Muninn in the Realms of Mist’. This track is slower paced than much of the album, while haunting synth leads complement the steady march of the guitars. The ambient break in the middle of the song fits its story well, but unfortunately disrupts the groove of the song. Still, this is one of the album’s standout tracks.
‘Choronzon Conjured’ is another standout, spinning a tale of Aleister Crowley summoning a malevolent demon. Angelic, choral vocals and a church organ are used brilliantly here, as well as guttural vocals to voice Choronzon himself, in contrast to Kaiaphas’ signature shrieks. The album’s closing track, ‘This Jesus Must Die’, a cover from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, is another highlight, although it may annoy purists. The dark, tongue-in-cheek humour of this catchy addition will please fans who acknowledge that black metal can, at times, be fun.
An interesting element of this album is the variety of influences that are present throughout. Punk-inspired drum beats and riffs are present in several songs, especially ‘The Elementals’. Melodies that border on the uplifting are utilised during the title track (with Lord Ahriman of Dark Funeral on guitar duties), tempered with minor notes to maintain the foreboding atmosphere. ‘Evil Sluts of Satan’ has an industrial feel, with more commercial spoken word vocals, and the borderline death metal chaos of ‘The Impeccable Sorcerer’ make Into the Nagual a more interesting release than many within the genre. It’s not all positive though – dark ambient piece ‘En Kamp I Skogen’ was tedious to listen to, though may please fans of that genre.
Overall, Into the Nagual should make a welcome addition to the collections of those who prefer their black metal melodic and synth-infused. Although not a modern classic, its plethora of influences should interest listeners with more eclectic tastes.