Review Summary: Fit to kill, but not fit to thrill.
It's almost surprising that Norway's Blood Red Throne have been together for over two decades now, considering they still perform and deliver with the youthful exuberance of a band that have only just formed. With that said, Blood Red Throne's reputation has largely been built around arguably their towering masterpiece, 2005's bruising Altered Genesis
record, which has gone on to be one of the best European death metal albums of the 21st Century. That was almost fifteen years ago however, and Blood Red Throne have since matured in almost every aspect.
Whilst it's easy to “guess” the band's signature musical style, this year's Fit to Kill
seems to be a lot more appreciative of the groove-inflected side of death metal than any other BRT full-length. Sure, they've gradually introduced this newer musical style over the last three albums, but the band's latest full-length pulls no punches in stepping into new territory. The introduction to opener “Requiem Mass” says it all really-A brief albeit unoriginal guitar-based groove which unfortunately asks the listener to sit with patience rather than commence headbanging a minute later, when the song's menacing battery comes into full flow. Depending on whether or not you like fairly forgettable intros to interesting songs, the album itself will prove to be a real slow-burner. “Killing Machine Part 2” (As if it really needed a second part) is definitive groove-inflected menace, powering through with mid-paced assaults but never quite exploding until the solo section in the second half begins. Likewise, “Skyggemannen” builds up its vicious tension but does so with riffs that actually seem original and full of gusto rather than a rehashed collection you've heard from pretty much every BRT album in the past. As one of the album's previews, “Skyggemannen” demonstrates that BRT still like to deliver their metal the old school way, reminding us all of their early days as riffs pound into the howling vocals and create one of the album's finest highlights.
If anything, Fit to Kill
overstays its welcome, even at just under 50 minutes in length. Sure, Blood Red Throne haven't exactly chosen short and sharp songwriting techniques in the past, but when the most lackluster song on this latest full-length lasts just over 8 minutes, you suspect that the band may have let their focus on grooves get the better of them. That, essentially, is all “Deal It or Die” turns out to be: one big unsatisfying groove. Even the title doesn't hint that it's going to be monstrous in terms of length, and everybody who thought it was going to be a game-changing centrepiece for the album will have been disappointed. Most songs suffer from increased length in the same way, “WhoreZone” for example providing us with one of the most boring intros known to be in a BRT album and “Movement of the Parasites” attempting classic Morbid Angel at their doomiest but simply not getting anywhere. At least the impression is improved with the immediacy of “Bloodity” and the last-minute pulverisation of closer “End”, but at this point it's really just a “too little too late” feeling.
What Blood Red Throne have done here isn't sub-par exactly, but considering the achievements they've made in the past you'd think that Fit to Kill
would be more inspired and creative than it actually is. Instead it turns out to be a record too long for its own good, relying on one seemingly fresh musical twist which sees Blood Red Throne as a band perhaps clinging onto former glories. That said, if you want tunes to headbang to without any real forethought, this album will fill the void for 50 minutes.