Tech Black/Death Thursday Part II: Drottnar

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A few months back our good friend Jack was forced to take a break from giving you losers your weekly lessons in sweep-picking and blast beats. Comrade Dean filled in admirably with a journey into the discography of the venerable Deathspell Omega. This week I’m here to continue what he started with a look at Norway’s Drottnar.

But first, the week in tech death, courtesy of Mssr. Bauer himself:

Now, onto Drottnar.

Drottnar first formed in 1996 as a death metal band called Vitality. We’re not going to talk about that. On A White Realm and Spiritual Battle, they played Viking black metal band. We’re not going to talk about that either.

For me, Drottnar’s real discography begins with 2003’s Anamorphis EP. After the intro track “Morphosis,” the quintet spend the next eighteen minutes showing off their new style. From the first note of “The Individual Complex,” it’s clear Drottnar have abandoned their past brand of simplistic Christian Viking metal (oof), charging forward with a sound all their own. Dissonant, distorted guitars reminiscent of Abigor ring out over a spastic rhythm section straight out of Calculating Infinity-era Dillinger Escape Plan. The bizarre, Mayhem-esque song structures were kept grounded by the massive rhythm section of Glenn-David Lind and Bjarne Pecer Lind. Step aside, Imperial Triumphant; you were bested twelve years ago.

But Drottnar weren’t about to allow some pathetic metal blogger to categorize and forget them. 2006’s Welterwerk made sure of that. The start-stop riffs of Anamorphis are choppier and tighter than before, and Sven-Erik Lind screams with a newfound venom and conviction. The biggest change between Anamorphis and Welterwerk is one almost impossible to describe: the atmosphere. Aside from the vastly more sophisticated songwriting and much clearer production, Welterwerk is characterized by its deep, nigh-impenetrable walls of layered guitars and vocals and more progressive song structures. Were Drottnar to have continued on this path there is no doubt in my mind they would experience a new level of renown in the underground alongside dissonant metal titans like Deathspell Omega, Gorguts or Pyrrhon.

Unfortunately, it was not to last. Stratum, released in 2012, was hardly a bad album, but its simplified riffs and songwriting were, frankly, a step down. After a six year wait, it simply didn’t hold a candle to Welterwerk. Perhaps it was this musical step backward, or their ghetto-ization as “a Christian band,” much like their countrymen Extol, or even their visual presentation that prevented Drottnar from reaching the acclaim they were due on the backs of both a stellar EP and a pair of solid and near-perfect albums.

It was around the release of Welterwerk that Drottnar first adopted a neo-Soviet/DDR aesthetic, costuming themselves in militaristic uniforms when performing live and utilizing megaphones, sirens and vintage radio communiqués in their music to create a wartime atmosphere. Nowhere is this more apparent than the video for Stratum‘s opening track, “We March.” In all honesty, I find this kind of thing unbearably cheesy, but fans of Kommandant may find something to love.

And that is Drottnar’s discography thus far: a solid EP and album and one near-flawless album of math-y black-ish death-ish metal. The band has teased new material in a video on their Facebook page, but when it will be released is anyone’s guess. Other than that, the band has been silent, with the only activity on their official site (still Stratum-era, obviously) the announcement of a new lyric video for “Cul-de-sac” over a year ago.

On that note, I leave you with “Ad Hoc Revolt,” the opening track from the masterful Welterwerk. I can only hope that whatever the band does next manages to stand next to this album as the work of art it is (and doesn’t take another three years to come out).

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