Thoren – Gwarth II

Rating: 1.5/5
Distributor/label URL: Drylands Records
Released: 2020
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Band line-up:

Anthony Lipari – Guitars
Joseph Paquette – Bass
Alex Cohen – Drums (tracks 2, 5, 7 and 9)
Kenny Grohowski – Drums (tracks 1, 3, 4 and 6)


1.) Gwarth
2.) Naeg
3.) Thaw Gur
4.) Vex
5.) Gorthad
6.) Raun Raeg
7.) Egladhrim
8.) Lithui
9.) Suith
10.) Firen


Okay, but why though?

That glib little phrase maybe doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about Thoren’s Gwarth II, but it goes a long way.

Gwarth II is an odd beast, and credit where it’s due, the band certainly can’t be accused of simply playing a style a thousand other bands do. Not any one style, at least. While most of it could loosely be placed under the heading of a kind of technical/progressive death metal, the real selling point is the sporadic and manic way the album leaps from one thing to the next. Tech death riffs bound suddenly into djent chugs, then slam blasts, then progressive noodling, then mathcore craziness. The music rarely sits still for very long, and given the short length of most of the tracks here, it’s impressive in its own way that they manage to mix up so much in such a short time.

But that’s also the crux of the problem here, because that tells you just how minuscule the attention span is here. The tracks are formless, whipping from one thing to another seemingly at random. There are no core melodies, moods or structured dynamics. The solos are measured in scant seconds, while by contrast the percussion is just one long drum solo. Nothing ties it together or holds interest, in a “throw in everything and see what sticks” approach I haven’t had the displeasure of hearing since iwrestledabearonce or Unexpect. Though, to be fair, Thoren display a lot of technical aptitude in all this. This is the one area where the band shine and deserve some real credit: they clearly know how to play, and it can’t be said that their spastic approach is intended to cover up a lack of skill.

But that just circles back to the original question: why? What’s the point? What do they do with this instrumental ability? There’s certainly nothing wrong with experimentation, and some of the most rewarding music can be that which breaks away from conventional formulas. Devin Townsend is a musical mad genius, Meshuggah’s Catch 33 is a masterpiece of texture and mood, while bands like Sigh, Arcturus, Thy Catafalque, Diablo Swing Orchestra or Zeal & Ardor mix up disparate musical styles into wonderfully cohesive end results. The difference is all those other bands still write good songs, or at least musical pieces with mood and atmosphere to them. With Thoren, it feels like just chaotic, discordant (albeit technically impressive) noise for the sake of it.

It’s worth acknowledging that I’m sure there is an audience for this, and I’m clearly not it. I’m sure there are those who love this kind of frantic, crazy mish-mash, an experience not unlike a trip through a twisted, demented underworld. But for me, this is far too disjointed and ultimately pointless to achieve anything.

Review by

Kieron Hayes