Jul 062010

For the most part, Bergen, Norway’s Byfrost plays marching songs and battle music for orcs. There are exceptions, which we’ll come to, but their recently released debut album Black Earth is mainly about the inexorable stomp, the headlong charge, the baring of oily teeth, the spiked maces held high. Or at least, those are the images that come to our orc-brained minds as we listen to this riff-tastic new release.

Byfrost is a three-piece band, and as befits this stripped-down ensemble, the music is bare-boned and primal. It lives and dies by the almighty riff, and Black Earth is loaded with them, from both guitar and bass. The pacing and the mood change within the album, but those dissonant hammerblows are a constant.

From the blackened thrash of “Horns to the Sky” and “Wings of the Angel of Death” to the lurching, stutter-stepped march of the title track, to the doom-influenced interlude within “Desire,” Byfrost builds their songs in a verse-chorus-verse structure around deceptively simple chords and rhythms, and then propels them forward in massively powerful repeating loops. The hooks are so sharp and deep that it’s easy to get caught up by them.

The remorseless martial stomp of the music is relieved by guitar solos that vary from soulful arpeggios to heated gouts of pure shred and by down-shifted variations in the pacing. But throughout is the sensation of being shaken like a rag doll by giant, clawed hands in time to a hellish beat.  (more after the jump, including some tracks to stream . . .) Continue reading »