Riket (a Swedish word for “The Kingdom”) is the name of a new band, but its three members are metal veterans. The band was founded by vocalist Johan Nephente Fridell and guitarist/bassist Tobias Jakobsson, both of whom are members of the band Netherbird (whose last album we reviewed here), and they were joined in this enterprise by drummer Adrian Erlandsson (At the Gates, The Haunted), who was himself also a member of Netherbird at one time. Riket’s debut EP, Avarter, is being released today in digital form, and we bring you a first listen for all four songs.
There is a story behind the EP, as told by Nephente, that’s worth reading if you want to understand what inspired this project and how the songs were recorded, and so I’m including it here before spilling a few words of my own about the music. Of course, no one would blame you if you decided to start listening to the songs while you read — because they’re damned good.
“All three guys that were part of writing and recording this short EP are pretty seasoned when it comes to studio work, Adrian of course more so than me and Tobias combined. So we wanted RIKET and the way we operate to be very different from how we do things normally: a bit more old school and a lot more crude.
“So we did this recording pretty much like we used to do demos back in the early 90’s. In those days an underground band could (at best) afford a studio for a weekend. You went in on Friday, recorded all instruments and vocals for about 4-5 songs and barely had time to sound check or even do enough takes to nail everything the way they ‘should’ be played. When you finally had all (or at least most) down on tape, you and the ‘producer’ mixed it the best you could, and you left the studio with a master tape on Sunday.
“Sometimes I think that is why a lot of the albums from that era are so damn good — they are not perfect performance-wise, but they have some ‘spirit’, something genuine that gets lost in modern productions where every damn detail is scrutinized and ‘perfected’ through re-takes and editing. Modern editing and production can kill the ‘soul’ of any tune.
“So with RIKET we wanted to return to the more loose and playful way of working with metal. Tobias recorded all strings rather casually and improvising some parts as well. But unlike in the old days, we used a click track for most parts since we needed to collaborate from a distance. Bass and guitars were recorded in Stockholm and then Adrian did his parts in his studio in London. Adrian did his own arrangement for the drums and played what he felt fitted each song the best. We did some small alterations and then all tunes were done.
“The vocals were recorded in two rather short sessions, with very few edits but with a rather extensive number of dubs for sure. Our good friend Nine (Wormwood/Withershin) also dropped by and did guest vocals on “Avart och Vanart”, spontaneous but turned out cool I think!
“The entire release is 11-12 minutes, so we pretty much went from Tobbe presenting his ideas to me for the first time to a done recording in less than a month, in that time also creating the band and enlisting Adrian for the drumming. So it is not a band we have been pondering about for ages, and we do not have much of a plan. No plan at all really. I decided to do the vocals in Swedish since it would make it a bit special for me personally, so I am pretty sure that will also be the language on our next recording, whenever that might happen.
“A funny side note is that me and Adrian were sitting in Studio Fredman in 2007 while we did the drums for the Lighthouse Eternal EP with Netherbird. During one evening we were having beers and playing our favourite old school death metal tunes from the studio computer, and we concluded that things were done cooler back in the day, more raw and more alive. So it does make some sense that we would do this recording almost 10 years later.”
As Nephente discussed in that commentary, the songs are compact, with two of the four coming in at less than two minutes — and it’s an exhilarating thrill-ride from start to finish. As Nephente voices the Swedish lyrics in a mix of deep, heartless roars, gritty growls, and skin-boiling shrieks, his bandmates deliver performances that are not only alive with ravenous ferocity but also technically acrobatic. Riket may have wanted to pay homage to the primal, feral appeal of old school death metal, but they’ve done it in a way that gives you a strong dose of dynamic pacing and head-spinning instrumental proficiency.
The songs also touch lots of stylistic bases — with blasts of blazing thrash, jolts of punk rhythm, the kind of progressive machinations spawned by Death, and much more. And as icing on the cake, the songs are also embedded with melodic hooks that don’t come un-stuck easily. “Lågor vid portarna” is a particularly serious ear-worm, but all the songs are infectious as well as electrifying. In a word, this EP is fantastic.
And so with that preamble, enjoy Avarter. To acquired the EP now in digital form, and to pre-order it on 7″ black vinyl, go here (the vinyl edition is expected to ship around September 1):