Review Summary: Norwegians playing Swedish-style black metal, Ragnarok tend towards the generic on this third full-length release.
It's WAR! screams vocalist "Thyme" on the opening track of Ragnarok's third full length; Brandishing a violent wash of black metal with a frenzied and punishing arrival. Ragnarok are a bit late to the BM game and for casual fans of the genre, the chance is you have never heard them. They are notable within the genre for featuring Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir playing keyboards on the Arising Realm
LP, and for guest vocalist Hoest (of Taake) on the Blackdoor Miracle
features only core members (all of whom, besides Jonthro (drums) are now out of the band) and they power through 8 tracks of fairly standard but catchy as hell black metal. Though they hail from Norway, Ragnarok's sound draws more accurate comparisons to the Blackened Swedes, Dissection, and even more so to Dissection's protégés, Naglfar. The folk-laden guitar harmonies, the mid-tempo thrash-style grooves, and the reverb-heavy vocals all lend themselves to this comparison.
Though Ragnarok offer very simple song structures, a fair amount of their riffs will certainly catch your attention. The main verse riff of "Nocturnal Sphere" has the potential to stay in one's head for days, it's classical music influenced melody backs the echoed screams for fist pumping metal excellence. The Dissection-esque harmony of "Certain Death" is nicely nostalgic as is the majority of "Devastated Christ."
Though there really is nothing wrong with Ragnarok's approach on Diabolical Age
, it may be a touch too derivative for anyone to give it more than a passing glance. The kick-ass riffs are in there, but Ragnarok have an annoying tendency of shoving these riffs down your throat. Most of the tracks wear out their welcome before they are over, bringing one to question if they should've just made this an EP and tighten up the songs a bit. By the time the album nears its close, there seems to be a fair amount of redundancy, causing songs to blend together.
Keyboards are peppered lightly throughout the album, though they usually feel like an afterthought when they do show up. Given this band's obvious influences, the addition of synth is not enough to set them apart, particularly the way they use it. The closing track "Postludium" is a keyboard-only instrumental and it's simply a waste of time. Vocalist "Thyme" is essentially unremarkable and generic, his performance being rather restrained and uninspired. The real highlight is the interplay of the guitars and the full armory assault of Jonthro's drumming. As mentioned, the writing for the guitars is excellent, but the song structures and overall repetition keep this one from being a classic.
Ragnarok have several albums worth checking out, particularly for fans of Swedish-style black metal from the 90's. A good place to start is the album preceding this one, Arising Realm
. To the uninitiated, Diabolical Age
may be instantly forgettable, but there are enough catchy riffs to make it worth your time after a few listens.