This Gift Is A Curse

A Throne Of Ash

Written by: AP on 19/10/2019 12:20:08

I remember two things distinctly from my first experience with This Gift Is a Curse. It was at a concert in the grimy confines of the now-defunct KB18 in Copenhagen, and when it came the Swedish outfit’s turn to take the stage, the entire venue reeked hellishly of tar. The other thing that comes to mind is that I can recall thinking, “this band is destined to remain a strictly underground phenomenon”, after enduring their chaotic hybrid of extreme metal and hardcore punk. Like their Danish brethren in Hexis, the Stockholm-based quintet seemed hellbent on creating a wall of cacophonous noise in lieu of actual recognisable songs, and while the extremity did have a certain appeal — as my inspection of the band’s 2012 album “I, Guilt Bearer” revealed — it was nonetheless a bit too nonsensical to make a genuinely lasting impression on me. Since then, however, the band has signed with Season of Mist, and the second album to emerge from that partnership, “A Throne of Ash”, has made me rethink my opinion — after all, This Gift Is a Curse themselves seem to have rethought their approach, resulting in a far more nuanced and coherent piece of music that falls neatly in line the broader spectrum of my taste in music.

But while the Stockholm natives have certainly taken steps to clean up their act, as it were, the music was so filthy and raw in the first place, that the retouching and maintenance work that has taken place has done very little to repackage This Gift Is a Curse as an inviting, let alone an accessible band. It is hard to imagine a more sinister intro to an album than “Hæma”, its distant war drums and swathes of feedback and increasingly ominous synth samples unashamedly building up to something nasty. And the first song proper, “Blood Is My Harvest”, makes good on the promise, dropping a couple of bursts of dissonant guitar chords before diving into the abyss. In there, the listener is met with a pitch black jangle of infernal riffs, blastbeats and callous, distorted growls by vocalist Jonas A. Holmberg. But as the song enters its final third, the grinding mayhem is subdued somewhat to offer an easier route into the music. The atmosphere remains nefarious, but the rhythm of this segment is slower (to the extent that you can headbang to it without getting whiplash), while guitarists Patrik Andersson and David Deravian switch over to tremolo melodies of an atmospheric black metal character. There is order in the chaos after all, it seems — but only until the caustic and utterly merciless “Thresholds” arrives to shatter the illusion. Still, as you work your way through the album, it does feel like most of the tracks find This Gift Is a Curse diversifying and even tempering their onslaught in order to tempt new fans onboard.

There were hints of change already in 2015, when the band released their sophomore outing “All Hail the Swinelord”, but there is no question that “A Throne of Ash” deradicalises their music even more. In the final segment of “Gate Dweller”, Johan Nordlund’s drums take on a tribal, atavistic character, with the tom-toms getting a good dusting off, while the guitarists search for inspiration in the neoclassical domain for an unnerving melody in the high register. And immediately in its wake, in “Monuments for Dead Gods”, the group conjures the atmosphere of classic Norwegian black metal, in which Andersson and Deravian let their instruments ring and reverberate eerily over a mid-tempo rhythm. It provides the foundation for the following “Wolvking” — a song so utterly without light that it should have even the most hardened fans of black metal paling from disquiet — and paves the way for “Wormwood Star” at the very end of the record, which has This Gift Is a Curse revisiting the slow-burning dirge of the track “Hanging Feet” that made such an impression on me on the aforementioned “All Hail the Swinelord”. It maintains an evil and ugly tone reminiscent of the band Dragged into Sunlight throughout but it is not without touches of grandeur in the instrumentation, and as such, it wraps up the album nicely.

A word of warning nonetheless: “A Throne of Ash” is an unsettling listen, one that has the capacity to leave the listener genuinely shaken. It may not be quite as deranged as previous records from This Gift Is a Curse have been, but you will still find yourself deep in the underground with little respite or forgiveness offered. As far as extreme metal goes, the Stockholm-based outfit continues to deliver some of the blackest, nastiest and rawest music available, yet having grown a lot as songwriters, their output today is easier to comprehend and thereby appreciate despite the harsh demands it makes on the listener. It took me a handful of spins but I was never put off — the darkness of “A Throne of Ash" was too intriguing.


Download: Blood Is My Harvest, Gate Dweller, Monuments for Dead Gods, Wolvking
For the fans of: Dragged into Sunlight, Hexis, The Secret, Young and in the Way
Listen: Facebook

Release date 14.06.2019
Season of Mist

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