Last year I discovered the Swedish death metal outfit Throne of Heresy with their impressive second album Antioch. The level of quality in the music and lyrics they brought forward was quite memorable. Much to my surprise they are already back with yet another release a good year later. While last time the focus was mostly on Satanism, this time they took one of the most fitting subjects for a death metal band. Decameron became a concept album based on the same named literary work by Boccaccio about the “Black Death”. So what’s better than a story about one of the deadliest events in European history?
The fact that Throne of Heresy came up with a way more intelligent concept than the usual gore and bluntness in death metal immediately makes this one of the more interesting releases of the year. Especially when you get to know that the album is built in such a way that they take you on a trip with the 10 songs from the first known victims of the plague in Asia, moving through the known world, ending on the band’s native Ostrogothian soil. It even goes so far that you can follow the route of the Black Plague with the 10 stories the songs tell on a special map that is included with a limited edition pack of the album…
Now the music itself hasn’t changed much since Antioch: it’s still the same death metal in which you can find influences of both the Gothenburg and Stockholm death metal scene with a healthy serving of black metal added to the mix with the help of Magnus ”Devo” Andersson (Marduk) as producer. What has gotten very clear though, is that the quality of their work has taken a really big step forward. Straight from the first track The Shores of Issyk-Kul, they grab my attention and pull me into the whirlwind of death and desperation that the Black Plague brings along with it. That same track actually becomes borderline catchy which is quite impressive for this kind of dark music. Every time I catch myself growling along with the lines “the horsemen came to claim their lives” and “they will suffer the vengeance of God” (delivering weird looks in my direction by random passerby’s).
Pax Mongolica delivers on more purely raw and blistering fast death metal than the first track, with a slight touch of Eastern melody in the guitar play. Siege of Caffa and The Plague Ships bring back that perfect blend of that same style of death metal, but with the cold touch of black metal giving it that slightly more evil and sinister sound.
Things get really interesting for me personally though when the title track Decameron kicks in. It starts of with a haunting melody to then develop into a slower, more refined sound that you could compare to some pagan metal bands like Moonsorrow. Though one certain pagan band gets channeled strongly when guest vocalist Karl Beckman (King of Asgard/ex-Mithotyn) starts singing: the ever impressive Primordial. Parts of this song could perfectly be from one of their albums with the slower atmosphere creating music and haunting, desperate vocals.
The quality of the track continues in Liber Secretorum, starting off with the voice of Ben Kersley, it brings a declamation before the death/black metal takes over again. That voice will be coming back on regular occasions. What I think is interesting (besides the quality of the music) is the historical reference behind this track. Liber Secretorum is about the book by John de Rupescissa who was jailed for heresy when pointing out that the current pope was in fact the Antichrist. Rupescissa survived a bout of the Black Death while incarcerated and ended up writing the “Liber” in jail, which ties in perfectly with the whole “Black Death travel” concept. That’s just one of the many examples history buffs will be able to find throughout their lyrics. This kind of intelligent (death) metal is just something that really attracts me and praise for their research and commitment…
When listening closely to The Pale Burden, you can hear progressive influences like in the old work of country-mates Opeth, with some more doomy passages, acoustic bits and tempo changes. Being the longest track of the album, it proves yet again the potential and talent of the guys in this band.
Last year I was already convinced that Throne of Heresy is a band to keep an eye on and with Decameron they did not disappoint! A death metal release with tons of variation and the cold touch of black metal with an interesting concept that fits well in a black/death metal band. Throw on top of that the fact that these guys really did their homework to make sure that everything they refer to has some kind of historical correctness and you get a release that is definitely a contender for one of the best releases of the year!
Release date: November 3rd, 2017
Label: The Sign Records
1. The Shores of Issyk-Kul
2. Pax Mongolica
3. Siege of Caffa
4. The Plague Ships
6. Liber Secretorum
8. A Silent Vigil
10. The Pale Burden