Although the underground-black-metal world has its fair share of modern-day innovators, there remains a vociferous cult of purists who still hail the blast-beat-girded tremolo guitar lines, grim theatricality and thrift-shop production values of the genre’s founding fathers. Consider the Israeli-cum-Russian duo Tangorodrim — named after the “Mountains of Oppression” from the Tolkien mythos, as if you didn’t know that already — as the alcoholic keepers of the flame that Darkthrone and Mayhem extinguished ages ago. The band’s fourth album, Justus Ex Fide Vivit, is soaked in the inexplicably beloved “necro” aesthetic of deathly rasps and intentional under-production.
Only the most diehard Hellhammer-phile will be able to detect the intended evil in Justus Ex Fide Vivit‘s rawness. Everyone else will struggle not to laugh at vokillist Larenuf (imagine a dying bullfrog earnestly reciting the words “I am standing in a naked forest/ And worship the clean ones/ They smell nice/ I have to take a shower,” as he proclaims in the title track), assuming they can ignore the inherent silliness of a band that seems to equate authenticity with shitty sound and little else. Regardless of genre, production choices should emphasize the strengths of a band, not crush them. With its absence of creative ideas and unvaried songwriting, Justus Ex Fide Vivit has only its negative energy going for it, and even that is strangled by tinny drums and thinly buzzing guitars. This is that rare metal album that sounds worse the louder you turn up the volume.
There’s nothing wrong with a band appealing only to its established niche, but it’s hard to imagine anyone with two ears getting that excited about Tangorodrim. The band probably believes that its ultra-kvlt aesthetic places it in a long line of underground warriors too morose and nihilistic to give a shit about musical interest and sonic niceties. Yo, dudes, even Mayhem and Darkthrone make decent-sounding records these days. Israel is one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world; there has to be a studio that isn’t housed in a garbage can somewhere. Truly, the emperor has no corpse paint.