Album Title: Dust
Label: Listenable Records
Date of Release: 31 March 2023
I know that the world has gone a bit crazy over the last few years, but when did I suddenly wake up and find myself in mid-90s Scandinavia? More specifically, in a rugged, windswept landscape somewhere along the unforgiving Norwegian coastline? I only ask because listening to this album, I’m immediately transported back over a quarter of a century, to a time when many considered black metal to be at its pomp. What makes the whole thing even more strange, is that the band in question are German. And we all thought the pandemic, or Trump being President was as bizarre as things could get.
Flippancy aside, Southern German quintet Thron have been plying their trade for eight years now and in that time, have released three full-length albums, 2023’s ‘Dust’ being the fourth in a particularly fertile and hungry start to their career. It is, however, my first dalliance with the band, and was drawn to it primarily because of the cover artwork courtesy of Khaos Diktator Design. And its dark, atmospheric aesthetic is, as it turns out, the perfect accompaniment to the music on ‘Dust’.
Like many records of late, it took me some time to get into the music that Thron offer here. However, from the outset, it was clear that there was something positive about it, and so it has ultimately proved. The fact that there is a definite Mercyful Fate touch to some of the music didn’t help as, shock horror, I’m not the biggest fan of that particular band.
But, I do love black metal, and I certainly love the kind that has a slight death metal edge, drama, and melody too. However, the melodies are not as pronounced and overt as some within the genre, and they are definitely not the sugar-coated candyfloss kind when they do emerge. Instead, they are subtle, occasionally a little dissonant, and they retain the grim darkness that the music seeks to explore. Nevertheless, that being said, there is also a devilish playfulness that lurks somewhere beneath the surface, largely because of the 80s classic metal hints within the compositions.
It takes no time at all for the modus operandi of Thron to become evident, as opener ‘Dying In The Mud’ gets things underway with no fuss or unnecessary preamble. The riffs from guitarists PVIII and SII are cold and menacing, but also strangely alluring, thanks to the mid-tempo pace and understated groove from the off. The pace, including blastbeats from drummer CII, is increased for the verses, to coincide with the introduction of Samca’s rasping and caustic growls. A swirling lead emerges, whilst there are occasional dips in intensity which then allow the bass of SXIII to come more to the fore. It’s the kind of track that becomes ever catchier and more memorable the more you listen, a definite trend across the album.
I don’t think that any of the eleven songs offer a reduction in the quality, either. I have my favourites across the album, but ‘Dust’ is a genuinely consistent record. It is also a very accomplished body of work that demonstrates that the quintet knows what it takes to create music that’s interesting and varied, whilst remaining true to its central ethos. ‘Return’ features all the classic tremolo riffing and thunderous drumming you’d expect, whilst also bringing things down a notch, to add in a sense of drama and theatre to the music.
When it comes to my favourite songs, though, it is to the second half of the album towards which I am inexorably pulled, despite the excellence and all-out speed of ‘The Golden Calf’ which also carries buckets of nasty atmosphere, particularly in the second half, alongside a gorgeous melodic section that is simply inspired.
However, when you have tracks like ‘The Eve’, ‘Into Oblivion’, and ‘xx’ to contend with, you begin to understand why picking favourites becomes a bit of a thankless and difficult task. ‘The Eve’ might start with a slightly cheesy intro, but after that, it’s pure gold. It is an icy cold blast of epic-sounding black metal, with hints of understated melody that become more pronounced as the song develops, including a killer lead guitar line and lyrics that I actually really enjoy. Maiden-meets-Dissection-meets-early Emperor is how I’d sum up this beast of a track.
To be honest, though, it’s not a description that would be out of place for ‘Into Oblivion’ either. It begins quietly with some really nice guitar work, before it gallops off in wonderful fashion, laced with some of the most overt melodies anywhere on the album. And the groove that kicks in at points is superb, delivered with a swagger that cannot be ignored. To then complete the unholy trilogy, we are faced with ‘The Tyranny Of I’ that is equal parts a lightning-fast black metal assault, and catchy, atmospheric number, another track that simply gets better with time and familiarity.
This review wouldn’t be complete without a word on the final track, ‘Martyr’ either. It’s a great song that encapsulates everything that Thron do so well, whilst also delivering one of the most arresting and beautiful melodies in the process. The quiet Maiden-esque guitar/bass section, alongside delicate but oppressive whispered lyrics opens into a blast of extreme metal, but without compromising the melodic framework, leading to a heady and irresistible listening experience to close things out expertly.
Isn’t it odd, how you can get to a point with a record where you cannot for the life of it, understand what it was that didn’t originally do it for you? Once again, I reach the end of a review of an album that I really like and wonder why it took so long to get here, and what was stopping the instant love. I have no idea and, frankly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I have taken my time to get to know ‘Dust’ and in so doing, I feel like I have made an important new discovery with Thron. German they may be, but they have channelled their love of Scandinavian black metal of yesteryear and have produced an excellent album that really should not be missed. I wonder if their previous albums are as strong as this? Well, if you’ll excuse me, there’s only one way to find out.
The Score of Much Metal: 85%