On New Album, Gauntlet Ring Feels a “Tyrannical Bloodlust” for Black Metal (Review)
Lo-fi black metal duo Gauntlet Ring has been on my radar for a while now. Considering the sheer number of releases Taurus and Mercenary have been churning out since 2020 (including their other projects Arbor and Fellwinter), they are definitely making an impact on the USBM scene, and their second full-length Tyrannical Bloodlust is no exception. Self-released under their own Blood and Crescent banner, the duo is adamant in their black and white Xerox vision with their Celtic knots and swords in hand. Black metal thrives off the mysterious and in Gauntlet Ring’s case, they are full throttle. Their releases sell out almost immediately as quickly as they pop up in distros. The more inaccessible, the more sought after. In a plugged-in tech world where almost everything is accessible, the novelty of NOT knowing about something at this point feels like a treat. People either eat that shit up and get addicted or give it a taste and move on. Regardless, Gauntlet Ring feels special, and you can’t help but jump right in with everyone else when you hear that there’s a black metal band that does things in the old style through and through down to how they circulate their music.
Don't get me wrong, it may sound like I’m talking shit, but this album is very satisfying. At the end of the day, I love black metal and when I seek out a new black metal album, most of the time I want something that feels entirely loyal to the genre without any nonsense. Right as the album starts with the first track “Blood Red Tides,” you get a sense of familiarity. The first thing that came to mind was "Celestial" by Abigor–it sounds like they are turning on their amps and just going for it. As someone who considers Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal the best black metal album ever, you have to love a band just flipping the switch and playing as fast as they can without an intro in the slightest (although I love a stupid long intro with keyboards or some other European inspired absurdity, as well). The Gauntlet boys are eager to replicate that raw and sharp guitar riffing style that made those blueprint albums so influential. That being said, the second track "Azure and Crimson" dips its toes into a bit of the Swedish realm with an acoustic interlude. The main guitar lead buried in the mix reveals Gauntlet Ring’s need to emphasize rugged melody within their songwriting and to close it out, we also get a taste of their love for synth with a moody castle dweller keyboard section performed during a storm, a common theme with this album.
Although it isn’t quite clear what the lyrical themes are on this album, we do get the lyrics to precisely one track. "The Mystic Fire" evokes a feeling of forlorn reflection for battle and the darkness it carries. Taurus' lyrics read, "We look into the blackness. We leer into the dark. In dying light, we ride forever." Traditional black metal seems to be an endless war of pure evil and lust for death, but it's okay because we lust for it too; it's part of the package! My favorite track was the first track on side B entitled "Silver in the Stars" which has some of my favorite melancholic sad guy melodies and showcases some of Mercenary’s drum abilities, breaking it up with some truly unhinged fills. Taurus manages to break up the monotony with some triumphant mid-tempo fist pumpers and some beautifully written and somber riffs. Tyrannical Bloodlust closer "Extermination" seems to take a darker and more evil turn venturing into their need for annihilation. It feels like the soundtrack to the death of mankind and the ghosts of dead soldiers marching on their horses into the moonlight that would make later-era Quorthon proud. A great closer that feels like pure chaos at points which sums up the band’s mission on this album.
Every so often, a black metal release comes around that isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. They simply love that wheel, scrape the rust off and make it shine. I also realize that this type of band is comforting for a black metal fan like me. Familiar, lo-fi, classic, meat and potatoes old school worship. This is an album for the lover of black metal conventions, and what beautiful conventions they are. Some of the best black metal seems to be written from a fictional standpoint despite their immediate surroundings, and this NYC duo proves this. This type of stuff harkens back to when I first heard those classic second wave black metal albums and delivers the same feeling. Yes, this type of black metal has been done many times. Originality isn’t always a priority when trying to satisfy fanatics of the black arts. Sticking to the tools of the trade with quality over quantity is sometimes the best approach. Don’t listen to this album expecting some truly groundbreaking riff salads but if you are like me and simply want a great genre defining journey of an album, you are in the right place.