Finnish black metallers Lord of Pagathorn have arrived with their third full-length of blisteringly cold and frigid tracks to ice over even the warmest of hearts. Forming in 1992 (during the primordial black metal soup that was brewing and beginning to boil over in Scandinavia), Lord of Pagathorn conjured up a single demo tape that stirred the underground scene and then subsequently in around 1995, they vanished into what I can only imagine as a dark dimension as it took them around 15 years to re-emerge. From around 2010, Lord of Pagathron have been hard at work delivering consistent works (including two full-lengths) which has led to a signing with Woodcut Records and now to 2021 with the release of ‘Age of Curse’.
‘Age of Curse’ begins with an intro track entitled ‘Burning Ominous Words’ and it’s almost exactly what it says on the tin. An opening crackle of a campfire accentuates the atmosphere and sucks you into this incredibly chilling world which is also expertly shown on the album cover with a mysterious goat-headed figure looming over a small fire in a clearing of some frost laden trees. It is almost as if this acts as a mystifying incantation to summon Lord of Pagathorn.
As the opening ritual draws to a close, we are met with a full black metal assault called ‘Baneful Curse to Destroy Them All!’ and that familiar cold pinching wind of black metal’s trademark chainsaw-like guitars and drums whip up around your ears. Quite noticeably is the use of reverb and space that again stirs quite a unique atmosphere that Lord of Pagathorn manages to achieve and while of course this isn’t a new technique employed by black metal artists, it certainly works very well here. This can be heard throughout the record and in particular on some of the tom hits on the drums in a similar fashion to Mayhem’s ‘Freezing Moon’ but not as pronounced.
A real stand-out track is ‘Insatiability of Man’ as it puts the brakes on the tempo for a moment and favours power and melody over speed and brute force. This stomping rhythm leaves the track wide open for some excellent and tasteful riff work and in some sections, the electric guitars are accompanied by a quiet, but effective use of an acoustic guitar which fleshes out the texture of and gives a more earthy feel to it. Furthermore, we hear the use of synths more prominently here and much like black metal legends Emperor, it adds a whole new dimension to this style of music and proves to be another creatively effective tool in Lord of Pagathorn’s musical arsenal.
In terms of the vocals, Lord of Pagathorn’s brilliantly named ‘Corpselord’ provides a solid fusion of a feral wolf-like snarl with some deep guttural undertones that creep through like molten lava piercing the surface. Title track ‘Age of Curse’ is an excellent example of this technique and musically this track is one of the album’s powerhouses with some crushingly heavy riffs delivered with some thunderous rhythms provided by drummer ‘Skalder’.
Towards the end, the band show no signs of dipping in quality as ‘Crush the Holy Spirit’ marries their speed and ferocity with angelic synths once more. Album closer ‘Dragging In The Dust’ is a slightly slower track again, with powerful chords and progression taking precedence over speed. An evil, lurching force emanates from each note and imprints a remarkably sinister vibe. However, the highlight is at the very end of the track where we are treated to some lead guitar work followed by a haunting piano outro accompanied once more the fire crackle of the campfire in the woods – a perfectly fitting ending to a spiritual journey in the frozen woods.
Lord of Pagathorn have delivered a tonally potent, atmospherically creative and expertly polished slice of black metal in ‘Age of Curse’. This third album is a true coming of age for the band and should be a benchmark for their quality for whatever comes next from them.
Highlights: ‘Baneful Curse to Kill Them All!’ – ‘Insatiability of Man’ – ‘Crush the Holy Spirit’