In metal, supergroups are usually either very good or very bad. It’s rare to find a supergroup that is mediocre, simply because it’s not often that a group of talented musicians come together and put out average songs. This is especially true in more extreme genres like death metal, black metal, and grindcore. Thus, the expectation for black metal supergroup Ov Hell—the brainchild of Dimmu Borgir vocalist Shagrath and God Seed/ex-Gorgoroth bassist King—was that they would be either extremely enjoyable or disappointing. However, debut album The Underworld Regime, which also features Enslaved guitarist Ice Dale, ex-Gorgoroth guitarist Teloch, and Satyricon/1349 drummer Frost, is the rare supergroup album that is just plain mediocre.
The reason for Ov Hell’s mediocrity is that the album sounds exactly like the bands that the various musicians come from. Anyone who has even a passing knowledge of black metal will be able to identify the classic elements of Dimmu Borgir, Gorgoroth, Satyricon, and Enslaved in Ov Hell’s sound. In fact, the easiest way to describe The Underworld Regime would be to say that it is Dimmu Borgir’s Enthrone Darkness Triumphant without the symphonic elements. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that the band has this sound, especially when you consider how many black metal fans in recent years have complained about how mainstream the scene has become. Many fans will likely praise this album as a much-needed return to black metal’s roots. However, a bit more diversity in the album’s overall atmosphere would have done much to improve the songs.
There are also some moments on the album that are incredibly cliché for black metal. The lyrics are anti-Christian, as can be expected from most black metal bands today, but the level of anti-Christianity is totally over the top, to the point of sounding almost silly. The most comical moment of this is the beginning of the album’s second track, “Post Modern Sadist”. The introduction is over a minute of spoken word by a female voice, supposedly that of an angel, speaking extremely blasphemous phrases, including the line “Fuck me with a crucifix” at one point. These kinds of clichés pervade the lyrics of the album, making it almost ridiculous at some points. There is little point for any band to be so overly dramatic with their views, least of all a black metal supergroup formed by two of the scene’s most prominent members who have made their views on religion abundantly clear in the past. However, it’s easy to see where this ridiculousness came from, as the lyrics are credited to Shagrath, with help from his Dimmu Borgir bandmate Silenoz, who also writes almost all of Dimmu Borgir’s lyrics. Anyone who is familiar with Dimmu Borgir’s later albums knows that their lyrics have gotten more and more blatantly blasphemous over the course of their career, as if Silenoz felt that their hatred wasn’t sufficient enough on their older work. That attitude appears to have crossed into Ov Hell also.
The end result is an album that is fairly bland to all except the most intense black metal enthusiasts. The Underworld Regime is an album that merits one or two listens, but loses its quality rapidly. Shagrath and King will have to diversify the music of their next album if they want Ov Hell to be a successful music venture.
// Notes from the Road
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