"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Gothmog - "A Step in the Dark" (CD)

Gothmog - "A Step in the Dark" CD cover image

"A Step in the Dark" track listing:

1. Eternal Hate (2:36)
2. The Awakening of Lord Strigio (3:50)
3. Raging Spiritual Ecstasy (4:22)
4. Nostalgia of Heaven (5:08)
5. Spirit of Nature (3:38)
6. Wandering Viking (3:30)
7. Death of a Warrior (3:58)
8. Ghost of Ancient Days (4:43)
9. Art of War (4:38)
10. Downwards the Hades of the Soul (5:21)

Reviewed by on February 21, 2009

"Spain’s Gothmog has made it clear with their debut album that they intend to take the symphonic black metal throne by force."

That famous band from Norway having something to do with a dark castle had better watch their backs, because Spain’s Gothmog has made it clear with their debut album that they intend to take the symphonic black metal throne by force. “A Step In The Dark” has all the epic, dark, and melodic qualities that mark a modern black metal release worth its proverbial weight in demon skulls. With fast guitar work, raspy growls and screams, and mood heavy synth sounds, there isn’t much about the album that isn’t consistently pleasing to the ears.

Comparisons to Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth will be inevitable, but in this case that’s actually a good thing. Gothmog isn’t copying the aforementioned bands so much as they play the style so well that they deserve to have their names uttered in the same sentence as the genre giants. At between three to five minutes the songs are a little shorter than other bands in the same vein have traditionally composed, but the brevity keeps them sufficiently self contained and prevents boredom from creeping in. There are a good deal of influences from outside the black metal realm that give Gothmog a more unique sound as well. Frontman Pikaath has been involved in both a power metal band and a vampirism themed act, and those influences pop up from time to time to create something truly unique.

A few of the songs like “Raging Spiritual Ecstasy” use a more bombastic and high pitched clean signing that steers clear of going over the top and perfectly fits with the music. “Spirit of Nature” also breaks out of the standard growling territory by using a throaty gothic intonation somewhere between whispering and the spoken word. The vocalist has an overall amazing range, dipping from guttural and low to rasping and understandable and then back to the standard high pitched black metal shriek. The opening of “Nostalgia of Heaven” showcases how just a few seconds of vocals can completely set the tone for a song. The growl there is less a scream and more a physical force tearing its way out of the vocalist’s throat, heedless of any damage it might be doing in the process, to spread its unholy terror across the world.

For the most part the guitars are kept fast paced and furious, with a few short acoustic interludes for melody and a folk inspired fantasy feel. Keyboards are used sparingly to boost background atmosphere, but they generally stay out of the way so that the brutality is more front and center. As would be expected from anything involving black metal, there are a lot of rapid fire blast beats, but they fit the sound of the band well even if they do seem to happen just a little too often. The black metal staple of treating the bassist like an abused love child locked in the basement continues here. However, the bass isn’t always overpowered by the other instruments and occasionally gets to pop out to be heard.

Gothmog has taken a solid foundation of upper tier symphonic black metal and built on it with their own power metal and dark mood twists to provide a powerhouse debut that boasts a wide range of influences. “A Step In The Dark” has set itself firmly on the “must have” list of any fan of symphonic black metal.

Highs: Amazing vocal range, great synth use, interesting power metal influences

Lows: A few too many blast beats, bass stays hidden behind the other instruments

Bottom line: Basically required listening for any fan of symphonic black metal

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)