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Ragnarok - Malediction (Agonia Records)

By: David E. Gehlke

[6/10] Blast-first, ask questions later black metal can be a total wash when it wants to be. Actually, it's not a matter of if wanting to miss the target, it just does because bands like Ragnarok (along with Endstille, 1349 when they're bored, and Dark Funeral) can't find the necessary memorable moments to serve their songs-on-overdrive properly. It's more of a case that these bands favor velocity over song construction, leaving the listener in the cold, while they play on, all warm and comfortable in their leather and gauntlets. Scandinavia can be so cold and unforgiving sometimes.

Norway's Ragnarok have been kicking around since 1994, which means they're in the tough position of not being a part of the old guard (which started in the early 90's) and unable to join black metal's subsequent third and fourth waves. Since they're caught in the middle (like the Dio song), the band have long been one of the pillars for average Joe black metal, which like the above item, doesn't put them anywhere else except between a rock and a hard place. A Ragnarok and a hard place, that is.

With Malediction, the onus on constant blasting pays dividends for roughly the first two songs, then the whole thing becomes a rather pasty and drab affair. Sure, opener "Blood of Saints" has the technical know-how and formula for natural disaster-styled black metal, but its template is repeated for the ensuing nine songs, which like so many releases that have come before it, run into the chopping block of heard-it-all-before black metal. The only deviation from the course comes in the form of "Fade into Obscurity," where leaflets of atmosphere and melody get dropped in, almost nonchalantly, though.

In terms of meeting the various competencies black metal requires, Malediction is able to check off the various boxes, and dot the I's and cross the T's. Doing that will help you stay in the good graces of the punters who can't stand progression, but for those who look for some ingenuity and individuality in their black metal, Ragnarok and Malediction is a stale, stale proposition.

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