(Today we present Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by Switzerland’s Stortregn, set for release this Friday via The Artisan Era.)
As some of you may be aware, I recently did a full, four album deep-dive into the discography of Melodic Black/Death Metaller’s Stortregn.
The benefits of this are two-fold. First off, it enabled me to re-acquaint myself with the band prior to the release of their new record. And, secondly, it means that I don’t have to waste time during this intro delving into the band’s origins and evolution – anyone who wants to do that should go check out the previous article from January – and can instead focus on the here and now.
This is particularly fortunate because their fifth album marks something of a turning point for the Geneva-based quintet, now signed to The Artisan Era, as they pivot even further towards a sound even more distinctly informed by the Melodic and Technical shades of the Death Metal spectrum.
Long time fans needn’t be too concerned though, as it’s not like the band have totally abandoned their roots.
As a matter of fact, while the music overall may be even proggier and more technical than ever, there’s still a lot of Dissection/Naglfar/Necrophobic DNA in the band’s hybrid sound, particularly during songs such as electrifying opener “Ghosts of the Past”, “Multilayered Chaos”, and “Timeless Splendor”, whose blend of harmonised, high-velocity tremolo runs, blistering, pulse-raising blastbeats, and spiteful, snarling vocals demonstrates that while the band may have willingly strayed from the left hand path over the years, they clearly haven’t forgotten where they came from.
But, by the same token, those intriguing Obscura/Beyond Creation/Gorod-esque elements which were already so prominent on 2018’s Emptiness Fills the Void are even more pronounced on Impermanence, especially during tracks like “Moon, Sun, Stars”, “Cosmos Eater”, and “Grand Nexion Abyss”, which put the band’s dynamic, multidimensional fretwork – moving seamlessly from artful, atmosphere-enhancing acoustics to nimble, string-skipping riff-work to epic, extravagant soloing, and back again – front and centre where it belongs.
And that’s not even mentioning the impressively intricate bass-work underpinning the entire album (including those songs which err a little more towards the “blackened” side of things), or the increasingly proggy percussive patterns of drummer Samuel Jakubec, whose more creative delivery reminds you just why it’s so important (not to mention more interesting) for drummers to write actual parts to fit the songs, rather than simply laying down an appropriately “brutal” beat.
Is any of this a bad thing?
Not at all!
In fact I’d probably go so far as to say that this is the most energised and agile the band have ever sounded, and if signing with The Artisan Era is part of what’s helped give them this new lease on life (let’s not forget that five albums is a good run for any band, and many don’t make it anywhere near that far) then I say more power to them for following their muse, regardless of how other people might react.
And, let’s face it, while the band’s ongoing evolution might (emphasis on might) mean they end up losing some of their existing followers, chances are that the gains they’re going to make among the more Technical and/or Melodic Death Metal types (who’ve generally shown themselves to be a little more open to this type of cross-genre pollinisation) will more than offset any losses they might suffer amongst their more conservative listeners.
But, in the end, it’s not about how many fans the band might gain (or lose). And it’s not about what genre, or genres, you can, or can’t, pigeonhole them into.
It’s about creativity and conviction. Intensity and execution. It’s about the band going their own way, finding their own voice, and playing together for the sheer joy of it.
And, like it or not (and I really hope you like it), an album this vital, this vibrant, and this thrillingly visceral, only occurs when a band truly love, and truly believe in, what they’re doing.
Let’s hope they keep doing it for many years to come.