Varathron- Untrodden Corridors of Hades

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, December 16, 2014

While Varathron never seemed to gain quite as much notoriety as other founders of the Greek black metal scene like Rotting Christ and Necromantia, they have maintained a presence in the underground over the past 25 years. Rather than sticking with traditional release cycles, Varathron’s albums have been more spread out, with this year’s Untrodden Corridors of Hades coming nearly five years after the last full length. This appears to have paid off, as the group seems to only be getting better with age and have put out material that perfectly blends mid-tempo riffs and harsher moments with plenty of atmosphere and twists and turns.

Untrodden Corridors of Hades consists of seven songs, and with a total running time of almost 50 minutes this gives each track plenty of time to twist and turn as it builds a thick atmosphere. Even if you haven’t spent that much time with Varathron’s previous work the ideas here will likely still sound familiar, as there some similarities to Rotting Christ in the way the guitars let the melody expand slowly and the drums throw in some fills and other rhythmic elements that aren’t just constant blasting. It works to their advantage, as even when these songs stretch into the seven or eight minute mark the instrumentalists are able to fully capture your attention. There’s a perfect balance between that harsher bite and entrancing melodies that create a thick and murkier atmosphere. While the formula remains the same for the majority of the album, Varathron is able to throw in some surprises such as the sudden jazzier bass groove in the middle of closer “Delve Into the Past” or the sudden burst of faster riffing on “Leprocious Lord.” Untrodden Corridors of Hades is able to back up its thicker atmosphere with a considerable amount of substance, and that makes it an effort listeners will want to spend a good deal of time with.

Vocalist Stefan Necroabyssious has been with the band since the very beginning, and his performance on this album should leave most listeners very impressed. Rather than simply sticking with the familiar growling or high pitched shrieking that is common for black metal, Stefan’s pitch comes in as a raspier snarl that is able to twist and turn along with the instrumentals. There’s a feeling of constant change to the performance, as the range that is on display throughout this album is impressive, and some clean singing is even integrated in during key moments. The two vocal sections that stood out to me the most on this record were the rhythmic screams and snarls on opener “Kabalistic Invocation of Solomon” that are perfectly synced up with the instrumentals, and the intense screaming on “Death Chant” where Stefan sounds like he’s pushing himself to his limits.

Varathron is still at the top of their game, even twenty five plus years after forming. They’ve taken the familiar mid-tempo riffs and thicker atmosphere that has always been a part of the Greek black metal sound and made additional tweaks to it that continually draws listeners in. It’s a natural evolution for the band that makes a strong statement, and while Untrodden Corridors of Hades just barely missed making it as one my top picks of the year it’s a must listen for those with a taste for the slower, mysterious sounding black metal out there.

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