A new year always brings with it a bevy of renewed personal/cultural expectations. I have historically tended to gravitate mentally toward the hopeful notion that a new trip around the sun brings with it some form of clean slate where possibilities are endless, causing my excitement for what life’s next arbitrary rotation will bring to flow abundantly. But 2020 has felt a bit different for me so far. It’s not that I’m any more mature or jaded than I’ve been in the past, but I suppose I’m finally coming to terms with the knowledge that my own deeply entrenched habits, consumption patterns, and interpersonal goofiness are an integral part of who I am and will take a helluva lot more work to alter than a perfunctory new year energy can handle. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just life. When it comes to music, I’ve found myself in an odd space where I am not looking for the next big thing to drop into my lap so that I can set the year’s narrative. Instead, I’ve just been craving straightforward nastiness. Sounds like 2019? Maybe even 1995? Great. Give me all of it. So here’s Brotthogg, giving me exactly what I want and then some.
The Norwegian band’s debut full-length record Echoes of the Past is, well, exactly that. Melding melodically tinged black and death metal elements with a not insubstantial dose of thrash, Brotthogg’s sound heralds back to the good ol’ days of metal in a way that feels authentic, studied, and is constantly nothing short of effective. Think Emperor or Dissection mixed with 80s Bay Area thrash and you’ll get close to the sounds being conjured here. This isn’t music that is going to make your head explode due to its wild creativity, but instead is a welcome run down a well-worn musical lane that is wildly enjoyable throughout, which is exactly what the doctor ordered for fans of blackened thrash.
If you can get through opening track “The Summoning” without banging your head like an insane person, you are probably dead. I have a hard time imagining a world where this track doesn’t populate my thrash and black metal playlists for eternity. An absolutely perfect opening shot across the bow, Kristian Larsen Moen’s impressive work on the kit and his blistering take on thrash metal guitar worm feels reminiscent of the energy present in the work of bands like Deströyer 666 and Absu (sans the problematic bullshit, as far as I can tell), giving the album an absolute rocket launcher of a beginning that sets standards for the album in regards to energy and compositional/performative quality throughout. Subsequent track “Northland” feels much more akin to its first- and second-wave black metal brethren than a Megadeth-infused take on blackened thrash, moderating the pace slightly to allow the track’s sharp riffs to slice and dice through our expectant ears. “The Descent” and “The Aftermath” both build on the concepts established by the album’s first two tracks, alternating between thrash and black metal-heavy sounds respectively, with the latter adding a welcome acoustic respite from the sonic maelstrom contained in the opening salvo of the album.
As the album progresses, its straightforward charms bring with them a highlight on what may be considered the record’s principal weakness. Mainly that there’s little new here. While expertly performed and well-written, Echoes of the Past gives you exactly what it says it’s going to. There are vestiges of the most traditional of black and thrash metal concepts peppered liberally throughout with little attention paid to creating something new. But when the music is this good, and the pretense of ingenuity is completely stripped from the album from the title on down, the complaint of Echoes of the Past being unoriginal becomes moot. If you’re looking for something out of left field, this record isn’t for you, nor was it written with you in mind. And that’s just fine by me.
With Echoes of the Past, Brotthogg cements itself as a capable, thoroughly entertaining and engaging voice in the world of blackened thrash. Each of the tracks on this record are filled to the brim with fantastic and familiar riffs that are played as expertly as one could hope for. While the record may not present many new ideas in the blackened thrash world, its straightforward and sincere approach to the tropes that make this music such a good time is infinitely refreshing. Echoes of the Past is a record I will be returning to on the regular, and one I have no hesitation recommending to fans of this most blistering of metal subgenres. Quality stuff through and through.
Echoes of the Past is out now via Redefining Darkness Records, and is available for purchase on the band’s Bandcamp page.