(Guest writer Patrick — whose own blog is here — provides this review of the new album by Põhjast, which is out now via Spinefarm Records.)
Põhjast are a black/Viking metal group with members from Estonia and Germany. Early this year they released their first EP, followed by their full-length debut Thou Strong, Stern Death.
These guys are, more clearly and completely than any other band I have ever heard, throwbacks to Bathory, circa Blood Fire Death. The production maintains a similar feel, though it is notably cleaner than on those early works (more similar to Bathory’s final albums). The rough guitar riffs have almost exactly the same tone and the same distinctly thrash-based roots. The stylistic balance between black metal hostility, epic Viking metal passages, stark beauty, and primitive dirtiness is all in full form.
Perhaps most significantly, their vocalist sounds shockingly similar to Quorthon. This guy is a slightly stronger and more in-key singer, but his plaintive howls often come in a tone so like Quorthon’s that I almost forget I’m listening to another band. This, and in fact all my claims in this post, are perhaps most fully evident on the wonderful closing track “The Three Brothers”, though they certainly hold true elsewhere.
With all that said, obviously this band is not at all original in their style. That is the single, glaring fault one might find with this record, as it appears the band does not even pretend to forge their own path. However, as was true of the songs found in Bathory’s great “Viking trilogy”, these tracks are all clearly distinguishable from one another as separate compositions that flow well together, so good songwriting does play a distinct role in their music.
The net effect, rather than purely rehashing an old classic, is that this feels like it could have been the third installment in the never-completed Nordland series. Effectively, this band gives us the opportunity to listen to new Bathory albums, which is a far greater service than any other clone out there can claim to be performing right now. I love this, though the album is somewhat lacking an original voice, and the aforementioned “The Three Brothers” is easily one of my favorite metal songs of the year.
The album can be streamed here: