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Prophecies of Pagan Fire (1995)

Released in April 1995, Enthroned's first full-length album came as a direct result of their total worship of the northern black metal sound. To be sure, this is a lower-tier band and Prophecies of Pagan Fire is in no way original or even all that good, compared to the bands that these guys were inspired by. Here is an early example of the newer wave of black metal bands that, rather than looking to the '80s, were too busy rocking out to the likes of Emperor and Marduk to know anything about Bathory or Venom.

The bulk of this material is really boring and struggles to be average. For the most part, it comes off as a really mediocre attempt to emulate the Norwegian sound. The music really drags on, even from the start of "Deny the Holy Book of Lies", taking forever for the introductory part of the song to give way to the rest. This is something tolerable when a band is doing a good job building some sense of tension, or if the riffs are just that good. Neither is the case here. The guitar melodies are, largely, forgettable and do nothing to evoke a feeling of darkness. There are a handful of lead solos, throughout the album, that try to add some depth. While they aren't bad, the basic themes of the songs just cannot be helped. Occasionally, there are more old-school passages, but it sounds more as if they picked up the old influence from a newer band, rather than having any real '80s background, themselves. The cheesy keyboard bits are a total joke and only serve to make the atmosphere more comedic than it already is, featuring worse choices than even that of early Enslaved. The vocals sounds like a generic version of just about every Scandinavian band of the early '90s, just without the evil or possessed feeling. The vocalist also includes lame parts with deep and high mixed together, diluting the actual black metal feeling of the album even more. This is somewhat appropriate, since there are more than a few death metal riffs to be found on Prophecies of Pagan Fire.

The production is just awful, and not in a good way. It sounds like a muddled mess. The bass is too high, adding a sense of warmth to everything, thus eliminating what little chance the guitar riffs had of creating a cold and menacing atmosphere. The guitar tone, itself, sounds rather harmless and possesses no edge, whatsoever. It is almost as if the mix was done by someone with more experience with death metal than with black metal. The only good thing about this poor production is that, at least, the music is quite uneventful so nothing was ruined or lost. Even the most grim and raw sound imaginable couldn't have saved this.

The best songs on here are "Tales from a Blackened Horde" and "At the Sound of the Millenium Black Bells", though that is not saying much. It is a shame that Prophecies of Pagan Fire is the best album that Enthroned ever recorded, since that means that this band's entire existence has been completely pointless. They added absolutely nothing to black metal and it would have made no difference, at all, had they never existed. That is not to say that this is the only unoriginal band out there, for there are countless copycats lurking about, but Enthroned failed to even do a good job at ripping off their heroes. Rather than at least carrying on tradition, they simply took something and made their own inferior interpretation of it, passing it off as something worthwhile. It is not. Avoid this.
(19 Sept. 2012)

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