Written by: RUB on 12/12/2021 00:00:42

Acclaimed Norwegian composer, multi-instrumentalist, and winner of the Norwegian Emmy Gullruten Roy Westad has opted for the next logical thing in his carrier: composing a metal album by himself and a few select session musicians, obviously. Under his alter ego "Illt" he released a powerful and extreme-sounding piece a few months back, so it's about time I got around to taking a closer look at it.

Labeled as "black ‘n' roll" (which I wouldn't call this at all, but moving on) on Encyclopaedia Metallum, I should have a hunch of what this should sound like. Still, "Urhat" touches a wide pallet of stylistic takes within the realm of metal. Starting off with a more straightforward track, "Millennial Judas" has a very modern and groovy take to it. Keen-eared listeners might've already realized that it's no other than Björn "Speed" Strid of Soilwork manning the pipes, which he luckily tasks throughout the album. This is a definite plus in my book, as his harsh and decipherable vocals add both more extremity to the soundscape, and also great vocals in general. The track is pretty straightforward, nothing too special about it, but it still packs just enough punch and balls-to-the-wall-styled melodic death metal to make the album kick off in proper fashion. But don't be completely fooled by this label, as even this track includes more extreme elements than your usual melodic death metal would do. And as far as I'm concerned, that's the general idea throughout the album: every track contains various elements from the different session musicians who contributed to this outing.

The second track "Sons of the Northern Lights" has a somewhat more menacing feel to it, and please tell me that the guitar/vocal piece just after the 30-second mark, doesn't reek of the chaotic and malicious extremity that is another supergroup, namely Vltimas. Not that it's the general feeling you have with the track, but definitely underlines how many different genres this track and album as a whole nod towards.

With both Dirk Verbeuren from Megadeth on the drums, Karl Sanders from Nile on the guitar, and Kjell ‘Mr. Damage' Karlsen from Chrome Division on the second guitar, one can really hear how elements of both straight-up heavy metal (and rock ‘n' roll, for that matter), death metal (in the style Nile plays – see around 2:30 for an example; sounds like something Sanders would write for Nile) and the melodic elements of Soilwork come into play. Just how much Westad has had to say about the entire composition, I leave it up to you to guess, but I think the outcome is quite successful. With a few tweaks and twerks, maybe this could turn out to be something much more excellent... like the outing of Vltimas?

As good as it gets is in my book the third offering "Scythian King". It has the right amount of melody, which is the very important ingredient in this regard, but also some very eerie and dark-sounding sections and riffs that make me wonder who the main guy behind this track is. With its blistering sections of both drums and guitar, I can really see some true progression. This track seems much more straight to the point than the rest, and still after a classic verse and bridge, I still feel both the melody and malevolent feel to the track; this really works! Although it might follow some plain rules of song structure, I still see this track as an absolute banger. And of course, "Speed" does the track justice! Things change a bit up again, as the start to "Every Tree a Gallow" sounds something straight out of an Aborted album in both brutality and tempo, but as the song evolves, both more traditional heavy metal elements are intertwined with the extreme ones.

Yet, this is not just a metal album. For the entire album, Westad has opted for a rather grim and extreme sound, but without sacrificing the melody. Because of that, it is not in the department of "black ‘n' roll" as mentioned earlier, but instead finds itself firmly between melodic death metal and black metal – with the various added genres, of course. With this in mind, I think this album could cater to a wide range of fans of both genres, as even I must agree that there are some pretty great tracks on it. However, I still find that some of the tracks too be either unnecessary or just touching too many genres, especially when it is the more extreme part of metal that is this album's core.

After six tracks and a little more than a half-hour, the album concludes. I'm left with a feeling sort of all over the place, but in the words of ILLT himself: "... I hate rules and boundaries [...] and the result is a genre-defying and emotional ride...". Although I have no doubt in my mind that the album is good, it doesn't really do much more than that for me. It has some great moments, but something tells me I won't remember this album down the line. I find the constellation of musicians pretty interesting, especially when one considers their musical background and usual habits. It's miles better than your average and dull-sounding death (or extreme) metal because, with this group, there's a clear change from track to track, with various details or highlights. Still, it's hard to grade the album as a whole, because even though there are elements that follow the same path, I somehow feel this album is still a bit too much all over the place. I've had this feeling earlier this year with another album, and although the music was pretty good as well, it simply falters in a very strong field of metal music this year. I do however urge you to check it out because even though it won't end up on my EOTY-list, it could still very well be an eye-opener to what the many all-star-session groups out there sure are capable of.


Download: Scythian King; Sons of the Northern Lights; Millennial Judas; Every Tree a Gallow
For the fans of: Vltimas, Soilwork, At The Gates, The Black Dahlia Murder
Listen: Facebook

Release date 16.09.2021
Indie Recordings

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