Ov Hell

The Underworld Regime

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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia

Say what you will about Norwegian black metal mainstay Tom Cato Visnes, aka King Ov Hell, and his temporary coup d'etat (in allegiance with vocalist Gaahl) of legendary black metal band Gorgoroth (until being forced to forfeit ownership of the group's name to its rightful owner, ousted guitarist Infernus) but there's no question that the man wants to work. King was already involved with numerous side projects (Jotunspor, Sahg, I, Audrey Horne) of various stylistic stripes throughout his Gorgoroth tenure, and as soon as his short-lived subsequent venture with Gaahl, God Seed, fell apart, King wasted no time in approaching Dimmu Borgir vocalist Shagrath (real name Stian Tomt Thoresen) about lending his own lyric ideas to the material that would eventually become Ov Hell's first outing, 2010's The Underworld Regime. And lo and behold, the pair (and assorted session musicians) met the challenge of understandably high fan expectations with a record favoring neither the polished symphonic majesty of Dimmu Borgir, nor the primal savagery of Gorgoroth, but rather a finely balanced amalgam of both extremes that, in the end, suits both of their talents very well. Impressive offerings like "Post-Modern Sadist," "Invoker," "Ghosting," and "Hill Norge" lustily gorge themselves in all of the expected black metal tent-poles while pushing their nihilistic blood-thirst to the very thresholds of discipline and control, thereby bringing about a decisively intricate and meticulously arranged apocalypse. And, rounding out these songs are eerie sound effects and backdrop synthesizers that instill The Underworld Regime with a crucial atmospheric shroud elevating its more straightforward ingredients to another level of high drama, befitting of the iconic figures in charge here. The only major knock that comes to mind is that serious innovation never enters the equation, but one doesn't get the feeling that this was ever a goal here, anyway. Instead, The Underworld Regime ultimately feels like a well-realized genre exercise ("what I did on my winter vacation"?) by these two formidable players in the Norwegian black metal scene, and a great way for King to get back on his pale, corpse-painted steed following the business complications of recent years.

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