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Usurper - Lords of the Permafrost

Lords of the Permafrost
by Sean McGuirk at 27 February 2019, 9:13 AM

Chicago's USURPERhave been playing Blackened Thrash music with a Rock-n-Roll twist since they came on the scene in 1993.  They disbanded in 2004 after leaving us with the phenomenal "Cryptobeast"and now, almost 15 years later, we are getting the much-anticipated follow-up to that album.  It's no wonder they would attempt a comeback now, as the hybrid brand of extreme music that they helped carry through the dark ages of the mid-to-late 1990's is more popular than ever, being played by bands like BEHEMOTH,SKELETONWITCHand IMMORTALwho have all managed to build semi-mainstream followings.

The subject matter on “Lords of the Permafrost”has less to do with worshipping Satan and more to do with the dark and supernatural: mythical creatures ("Cemetery Wolf"), apocalyptic visions ("Black Tide Rising"), ancient civilizations ("Lords of the Permafrost"), the strange and bizarre ("Mutants of the Iron Age"), these are topics that you don't normally see covered in these days of self-seriousness and pomposity in Black and Death Metal, but it’s absolutely refreshing and adds an element of fun to the record as a whole.

After a short acoustic intro, the record starts with a bang on opener "Skull Splitter."  Dan Tyrantor's vocals are full of attitude and ferociousness while still easily understood, sounding not unsimilar to the growling period of TESTAMENT's Chuck Billy.  The song descends into a brutal SLAYER-style breakdown about three minutes in that announces the return of the USURPERyou know and love.

"Beyond The Walls Of Ice"comes next and recalls "Arise"-era SEPULTURA, a mid-tempo Hardcore mosh that feels organic and takes its time applying pressure. "Lords of Permafrost"continues the theme with some nice syncopation in Rick Scythe's guitars and Joe Warlord's drumming.  There are lots of palm-muted triplets and interesting melodic dynamics throughout.  Things get interesting with "Cemetery Wolf"which is a true headbanger that intensifies into a circle pit-inspiring shred fest.  Some acoustic instruments thrown in at the end add to the creepy atmosphere.

"Warlock Moon"is another uptempo KREATOR-style maelstrom that shows off USURPER's ability to go full-on Thrash.  "Gargoyle"continues with a nice proto-Black Metal piece of sorcery mixed with MOTORHEAD"Black Tide Rising"revs up with majestic force as Warlord's masterful drumming takes center stage, offering some nice fills and a breakdown section powered by double kicks and some squelching harmonics from Scythe"Mutants of the Iron Age"starts with a banshee cry, signaling the pain isn’t over yet.  All their influences seem to coalesce beautifully here and Tyrantorhas some legit hair-raising vocal moments.  There is a narrated interlude that adds some flavor, as the final minutes feel like a psychedelic wormhole is closing.

This is a more varied and dynamic effort than “Cryptobeast”’s all-out assault, and the production, while not perfect – the drum tone feels flat and thin at times – is far from sterile. Though touched upon briefly, I might argue that they don't go far enough to turn up the camp this time around, with the singalong spirit of "Kill For Metal"replaced by a more deliberate horror comic vibe.  But, hell, it’s been 15 years!  USURPERhas done a great job reinventing themselves here; making a brand-new album that feels both timely and timeless.

Songwriting: 7
Originality: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

1. Skull Splitter
2. Beyond the Walls of Ice
3. Lords of the Permafrost
4. Cemetery Wolf
5. Warlock Moon
6. Gargoyle
7. Black Tide Rising
8. Mutants of the Iron Age
Rick Scythe - Guitars, Backing Vocals
Joe Warlord - Drums, Percussion
Dan Tyrantor - Vocals
Scott Maelstrom - Bass
Record Label: Soulseller Records


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