Now in existence for more than 20 years, veteran Norwegian black metal juggernaut Ragnarok are set to unleash their latest platter of evil for Agonia Records, Psychopathology. Produced by none other than Marduk bassist Devo, and with cover artwork created by Marcelo Vasco (Slayer, Machine Head, Dimmu Borgir), Psychopathology looks and sounds more polished than previous Ragnarok albums, as the band look to finally crawl out from the black metal underground and finally stand alongside some of the heavy hitters of the genre. Also notable on this album, Jontho moves out from behind the drum kit to now take over the role of lead vocalist, with Malignant (from Dauden) taking over the drum slot. Bolverk is on guitar, and DezeptiCunt contributes bass for the last time on a Ragnarok record, as he has now left to pursue other musical projects.
With 11 tracks of brutal yet majestic Norwegian black metal, Psychopathology, as I mentioned earlier, sounds a tad more 'professional' than previous efforts. Yes, it's still Ragnarok, as crushing as ever, but songs such as "My Creator", "Dominance & Submission", "I Hate", and the title track offer up a flair of musicality that's often been missing from this band. Bolverk's guitar layers are magnificent, jagged, metallic, and completely pulverizing throughout, especially on the blazing "Heretic", but he drops in little nuances along the way that really add to the depth of this album. Anyone worrying about Jontho leaving the kit need not fret, as his tortured rasps, screams, growls, and bellows perfectly fit the manic nature of these songs, and Malignant's jackhammer blasting and intricate fills give you the impression he's been doing it with this band for many years. Look out for the complex riffing of "The Eight of the Seven Plagues" (yep, these guys can do the progressive black metal thing too!), the more mid-paced crusher "Where Dreams Go to Die", and your standard, violent ,classic Norwegian styled fare with the furious "Lies" and "Blood".
With a long and very solid career, Ragnarok have plenty of strong releases to choose from for those new to their bulldozing black metal assault, but Psychopathology would be a very good place to start if your inaugural journey is now set to begin. Plenty brutal, but with a slight polish that allows them to shine as never before, this should be the album that finally gives this band the exposure that's often eluded them.
01_Dominance & Submission
07_Into the Abyss
08_The Eight of the Seven Plagues
11_Where Dreams Go to Die