Theotoxin – Fragment: Totenruhe Review

Anyone else have a hard time looking back on their past work? When I read the intro I wrote for Theotoxin’s 2020 album Fragment: Erhabenheit, I can’t help but cringe at its dumbness. I think this is a pretty normal human phenomenon, and it’s just proof that any work of art (if you can call a metal review art) is simply a snapshot of one particular moment in time in the creator’s life. Circumstances change, and often that leaves us in a completely different mindset from the one that fueled our past creation, and thus the past feels alien. It would be interesting to know how Theotoxin feel about their discography as they’ve barely had a chance to breath between full-length offerings. The band has been prolific since forming in 2016, and are already releasing their fourth album. I really enjoyed Fragment: Erhabenheit and its snarling black metal attack, so when its follow-up suddenly fell into my lap, it was a pleasant surprise indeed. Let’s see if Theotoxin’s new work can match up to the old.

I referenced a couple of blackened death metal bands in my review of Fragement: Erhabenheit, but Totenruhe sees the band shift a bit more towards straightforward black metal. Opening track and lead single “World, Burn for Us” demonstrates this extra blackening, revealing a black that could be none more so. Vocalist Ragnar delivers a chorus that causes spontaneous proliferation of invisible oranges,1 and the guitars rip, shred, and delight with beautiful splendor. Ferocious and melodic, the style reminds me of Watain and of recent releases from …and Oceans, Seth, and In Aphelion, and these similarities place Theotoxin right in my black metal sweet spot.

But don’t make the mistake of judging the album on the melodic single alone, because Fragment: Totenruhe slays when it wants to. Melodic monsters like “After Thousands of Years” and “Totenruhe” are joined by numbers that throw a heaping helping of thrash into the mixing bowl (“Demise of the Gilded Age” and “Perennial Lunacy”) and slower, brooding tracks like “Towards the Chasm” and “…of Rapture and Dissolution.” No matter the speed at which they happen to be traveling, Theotoxin crush all in their path, and their ability to imbue such a varied palette of textures with utter malevolence ends up being their greatest strength.

Like most of my favorite black metal records, Fragment: Totenruhe is really well produced. While some think that black metal must be a lo-fi, ear-piercing affair for it to be trve, I think the genre’s aesthetic shines brighter when given the technological touch. Guitarists Fabian Rauter and Martin Frick devastate and intoxicate with their performances, and drummer Flo Musil shows off some incredible skills with crushing execution. Ragnar has a perfect, quintessentially black metal delivery, and the whole package comes together in infernal ecstasy. Fans of the style will love most of this album—the closing cover of Marduk’s “Frontschwein” is well executed but feels unnecessary—but tracks like “World, Burn for Us,” “Demise of the Gilded Age,” “Perrenial Lunacy,” and “…of Rapture and Dissolution” are just excellent.

Fragment: Totenruhe is stocked full of black metal anthems, and when you combine the record with its predecessor, it makes a compelling case for Theotoxin’s inclusion among modern black metal’s stronger acts. I can’t wait until these guys release another record, and I can’t wait to cringe when I reread this review in another year or two.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AOP Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 28th, 2022

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