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Black Metal History

Essential Black Metal Listening: GORGOROTH – Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam

As part of Black Metal History Month, we will be spotlighting classic albums that we feel are essential for any fan of black metal. This album is a part of that series. Make sure to pick up our limited edition Black Metal History Month t-shirt.

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If I’m to pick a band that perfectly embodies black metal, the first band I’ll usually turn to is Gorgoroth. Everything about them, on the surface and within their albums is just so black. With Gorgoroth, you have the Tolkien-inspired band name, banned and controversial performances, infamous frontmen, and they’re Norwegian! Gorgoroth has been around since the rising of black metal in Norway, and are known to anyone who claims black metal as their own. But I’m not going to talk about some of their older works, like Under The Sign Of Hell, but one that is slightly newer, Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam.

This album was released in 2006, with Gaahl as the frontman at the time, and is also their first album completely in English. The duo of Gaahl and Infernus almost seemed like a match made in heaven…or…hell,I guess. Infernus’ guitar work has always been very impressive, and a little bit more on the thrash side than the atmospheric, droning side of black metal. A huge component of black metal is that aforementioned melancholic atmosphere, which Gorgoroth still does achieve, but there’s also a point where black metal becomes heavy as well. I feel a good contribution of that goes to Frost on the drums, with unrelenting blast beats as well as double bass. It all contributes to a really awesome album for
Gorgoroth, and simply for black metal in the 21st century.

“Wound Upon Wound” is what starts the album off, and it starts it off in a very good way. Intense double picking and blast beats lead the way with Gaahl’s rasping being the cherry on top. That opening riff is just so tasty, and is simply just heavy. And the tone for the rest of album is simply set in that one song. I know “Carving a Giant” is the most known song off this record, but I think “Wound Upon Wound” is just better.

I think the song that threw me for a loop was “White Seed.” The first half is just absolute and unyielding dissonance, and can get unnerving after a while. It’s not the most shocking thing ever in black metal, but man can it still get under my skin. It’s atmospheric, but incredibly dark and evil. It feels so raw, and yet still cleverly refined.

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If you’ve come here wondering about this album, thematically speaking, I have two words: “It’s Gorgoroth.

I know I’m supposed to dote on and on more about what exactly makes this album so essential to black metal history, and whatever whatever. But honestly, there’s really nothing too terribly outstanding or even truly Earth-shatteringly significant about this album to black metal, or Gorgoroth for that matter. Fans do like this album, but probably wouldn’t consider it the best Gorgoroth album yet. What I do find quite important about Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam is actually the testament of Norwegian black metal to still stand on two strong feet in the 21st century.

By 2006, teen-oriented metal and deathcore were increasing in popularity on the mainstream, and it had been about 10 years since the second wave of Norwegian black metal. Metal was still changing, finding new trends and new bands to lead the charge. Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam was officially Gorgoroth’s 3rd album in the new century, and yet when you hear it you know that it is still full on, balls-to-the-wall black metal. It’s not a fusion genre, like blackened death, or symphonic black, blackened doom, doomed black, or anything of that nature. Not that there’s anything wrong with those subgenres, but it just shows that a strong genre like black metal can still exist and thrive well in the midst of a changing environment. Is this black metal the exactly the same from the early 90’s? Not entirely, but that would be boring anyways. Black metal should still have the freedom to grow and change a little bit, as well as Gorgoroth, but never to lose the actual essence of the genre. Do we know Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam is black metal from the get-go? You betcha. And Gorgoroth is going to keep that method for probably as long as they see fit.

"Exit" is my favorite song on the album, by the way.

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