(Today’s second guest post comes your way from the depths of Trollfiend’s lair, where you can’t walk without tripping on a femur or mashing a skull further into the muck. He’s reviewing the new album by Svarttjern.)
Genres are a good thing. There, I said it.
Okay, I admit that I have zero musical knowledge and only know what a ‘blast beat’ is because I looked it up on Youtube (and I’m still not 100% sure, as the video I watched appeared to be in Swedish).
I could argue endlessly about what constitutes pure blackened crustgrind doomcore and would still not be able to tell the difference between it and blackened doomgrind crustcore, even if it came up and blackenedly doomground the crust right off my own core. But having said that, I still say genres are good. They give us a foundation to build on, they prepare our ears for the particular kind of ass-fucking ears get from the metal we love, and they give us something to argue endlessly about on metal website forums.
So I’m going to go out on a limb and call Svarttjern ‘blackened death’. I have no fucking idea if such a thing exists, and I’m willing to bet my priceless collection of Burger King collectible sippy cups that at least seven people are going to call me a goddamn moron for not knowing that Svarttjern is, in fact, not even close to blackened death and is more like deathified black. Bring it, bitches.(more after the jump . . .)
But that being said, there’s no doubt that Svarttjern falls into the black metal realm on a truly fundamental level. I mean, just look at them.
I don’t know about you, but that screams “videos shot in a forest” to me. However, if you listen to Svarttjern, you may notice something surprising. While they do not always deviate from the “whirlwind of angry bees in a cave” sound that we’ve come to know and love as “black metal”, deviate from it they do, with impressive and amazing results.
Black metal is, generally speaking, “ambient”, if the ambience you’re looking for is grim bleak nihilism enjoyed whilst frozen solid to a wolf that is eating a priest. It is meant to evoke those cold dark Northern woods inhabited solely by glacial priest-eating wolves and Kabuki actors with nail-studded armbands. But Svarttjern’s songs are not necessarily ambient. They are brutal, heavy, chunky, riffy and dare I say it, remarkably death metalish. They are less “ambient” than “constructed”.
This by no means eliminates the icy wasteland with trees and wolves ambience that you get from your black metal. Rather it builds on it, taking it into a martial zone, where the icy wasteland with trees and wolves is populated by black-hearted warriors bent on the destruction of all life and/or at the very least making their icy wasteland free of all the annoying clutter of trees and wolves and junk.
Svartjjern’s latest album, Towards the Ultimate, actually comes back a little more comfortably into the black metal sound than, say, Misanthropic Path of Madness. The track “I AM the Path (Part II)” starts with a nice fat stompy riff and then organically flows into a more BM sound, but with a little touch of melodic awareness. Despite the fact that HansFyrste (who you may also know as the current frontman of Ragnarok) has a voice that sounds like he is gargling a nail-studded-armband-wearing glacier, the words are reasonably clear. It helps that he sings in English, I suppose, but I’ve heard other BM bands sing in English that were well-nigh (and usually mercifully) unintelligible.
“Superior Growth” is an unrelenting, thundering artillery assault that will make you long for the comforting safety of traffic, 8-to-6 jobs, computer crashes and shitty coffee.
The closing track “For What Blooms Without Lust” is face-meltingly cataclysmic, wandering somewhere between black, melodic death, and someone kicking your ass with a boot that has a nail-studded armband on it.
All in all, Towards the Ultimate continues Svarttjern’s mission of bringing something new to black metal without departing too much from what makes black metal black in the first place. Death metal fans might find it too black for their liking, but any fans ov the black will, I think, appreciate the nuances that death brings to the black sound. As a sophomore release, I might say that this is a little “safe” for Svarttjern, but it’s still a solidly punishing album and worth a listen. Also, wolves.