Thromdarrian midwinter

THROMDARR: Midwinter Frost

Release year: 2022
Label: Svart Records

Though the list of legendary names within Finnish extreme metal is both long and illustrious, even longer is of course the list of names who have been largely forgotten, and whose exploits are not heralded as iconic. Some deservedly so, some not quite as. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in digging up even some of these more obscure relics and give them a refurbished new lease of life in the form of re-releases. An interesting and a, by and large, welcome phenomena, even if it is sometimes painfully obvious why some of these releases were all but forgotten.

Thromdarr are one of those acts, who long languished in almost complete oblivion. The band formed already in 1989, first as Necropsy, then as Necrobiosis and finally as Thromdarr. The band, who started out as death metal, but evolved towards black metal, even got around to releasing two albums – NorthStorm Arrives in 2000, and Electric Hellfire in 2011. By that time, the band (who’re still together) had already lost momentum and had gone from being a pioneer in Finnish extreme metal to being just another generic band. Testament to this fall from grace, if that term can be used, is the fact that the band doesn’t receive as much as a mention in the book Pirunkehto (The Devil’s Cradle), the most comprehensive history of Finnish black metal to date.

Midwinter Frost, subtitled “Complete demo tapes 1990-1997”, is a good opportunity to re-evaluate whether Thromdarr would deserve more recognition for their input in the development of Finnish extreme metal. Spread out on two CD’s, the anthology features a total of six demos, four of which were released as Thromdarr and two as Necrobiosis.

In a somewhat interesting move, the compilation eschews chronology. Disc one features the demos Winter Of Flames, As A Wind Cries and Silverthrone from 1993, 1992 and 1995, respectively, whilst disc two has Winds Of The Fall, Consume The Lifeless Cadaver and Consumed Tracks from 1997, 1991 and 1990. The latter two are the Necriobiosis demos. However, upon listening to the compilation, I think I hear the reason why.

You see, the demos on disc one present a sound that is even somewhat unique in Finnish extreme metal. Disc two features one demo of pretty standard mid-90’s demo scene black metal and two demos of pretty rudimentary death metal. In contrast, the three demos on the first disc present Thromdarr in a stage, where they were still transitioning from death metal to black metal, fluctuating between the two poles and combining elements from both. Stylistically, the end result even touches upon the original at times.

If you ask me – and once again, by reading this, you are asking me – the pick of the litter is As A Wind Cries from ’92 coupled with Silverthrone from ’95. Musically, this is tremolo-picking mid-tempo black metal, but the guttural vocals are definitely death metal styled. The guitar tone and overall sound are somewhere between the bee buzz of 90’s black metal and the chug of death metal. As A Wind Cries even evokes remote comparisons to Archgoat; the “black metal music with a death metal style” aesthetic is similar. Coupled with entirely competent sound (there are albums that sound worse than this) and not too many oopsies in the musicianship, these demos present demo-stage Thromdarr at their strongest.

Winds Of The Fall, on the other hand, presents a completed evolution to mid-90’s generic black metal. The vocals are standard black metal shrieking, the music is standard mid-tempo to fast, guitar driven mid-90’s black metal, and the sound is just as standard. On the other hand, the two Necrobiosis demos present pretty standard, primitive and crude early death metal. Coupled with rather rough, muddled production, these early works can’t hold a candle to the genuine classics of early Finnish death metal. Winter Of Flames, though stylistically in line with the ’92 and ’95 demos mentioned above, suffers from softer sound and just doesn’t cut the cake in the same way.

In other words, and in a nutshell, Thromdarr’s evolution during the demo days went from second rate death metal to second rate black metal. Magically, during this evolution the band hit an unwitting peak and created a couple of demos that transcend both the beginning and the end of the evolution. Sadly, Thromdarr got around to record an album only long after this elusive peak had passed.

So, do Thromdarr deserve a more prominent place in the annals of Finnish extreme metal? Frankly, no. Based on the material on these two discs, their largest merit was getting to the party early. And, sadly, time passed by the band far too quickly. During the brief moment of their evolution, when they recorded material that would have deserved more attention, they didn’t get the chance to make an album. In the lengthy liner notes included in this release, the band themselves seem to recognize that they sort of lost initiative.

Still, all things considered, Midwinter Frost is not a pointless release. It’s nicely put together, with old photos, interviews and the already mentioned liner notes. The sound is good, and authentic to the era – apparently the material was only mastered for CD/vinyl, not remixed or remastered otherwise. And, As A Wind Cries really is worth giving the time of day.

So, at the end of the day, the bottom line about Midwinter Frost is this. The demos contained on it are not lost gems, and Thromdarr is not some criminally overlooked trailblazer. On the other hand, Thromdarr certainly didn’t represent the bottom dregs of the barrel. They were somewhere in the dime-a-dozen inbetween. This compilation contains an authentic slice of time of the kind of stuff you could find in the demo scene in the 90’s – in good and bad.

If that sound appealing to you… well, maybe Midwinter Frost is for you.

Visit Thromdarr on their official website, Bandcamp or Facebook

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