As their badass name would suggest, Thronehammer set themselves up as the ultimate expression of caveman battle doom. Their full-length debut, Usurper of the Oaken Throne is somewhere between Conan and Khemmis as melodic epic doom vocals and ultra-sludgy guitar riffs are set to a sweepingly monolithic atmosphere and the ungodly slowest tempos this side of Dopesmoker. The band intends for their delivery to be a bludgeoning of the most boneheaded order but when looking at the ingredients behind it, I can hardly call it one-dimensional.
For starters, the musicianship serves the material quite nicely. The vocals are better executed than most of their peers, not going into full-blown operatic territory thanks to a few supplementary growls but the line phrasing is well developed. The guitar rarely ventures above a snail’s pace, but the glacial riffs and softer leads allow for solid dynamics. The rhythm section is also solid, keeping things basic but rolling with structure fluctuations, and you’ll even find the occasional synth wash rounding out the atmosphere.
But if I was to describe Usurper of the Oaken Throne with a single word, it would be EXHAUSTING. The overall album is seventy-eight minutes long and with half of the songs running over fifteen minutes, it makes for an incredibly intimidating experience. Thankfully it’s never just a single riff looping for years on end; on the contrary, each track operates as a suite of sorts with different movements gradually ebbing and flowing.
I especially appreciate the power behind “Conquered and Erased” and the title track, but both are extreme exercises in patience. Somehow this even extends to the album’s ‘short’ song as the five minute “Svarte Skyer” triggers memories of my high school geology lessons on plate tectonics. That said, I do give the band credit for nailing their self-titled song; the riffs are the sort that every doom band has written in their sleep but damn it all if the shift into that chanted chorus isn’t fun as hell.
Thronehammer’s debut album is not for the faint of heart. The style is well developed for a debut and there are excellent sequences throughout, but the extremely long running times for both individual songs and the album in full will make treacherous exploration for all but the most seasoned doom fan. It’d probably benefit from cutting a song and I can hope for a shorter follow-up, but that could very well just be my sissy ADHD brain talking. Thronehammer knows what it’s doing and by Crom, you’ll feel every minute of it!
“Conquered and Erased”