Serpent Column – Endless Detainment

Wars Waged in My Privates lol gottem

Look man I’m just gonna make this a short one.  I’m not reinvigorated by the Covid like most of you are, I’m alternating between pointlessly going to work anyway and spending a week at home being fidgety and annoyed at my housemates for simply existing.  I thought I was gonna review during this downtime to help keep myself sane, but it turns out I hate doing that too but dammit I’m gonna try FUCK

Serpent Column has been something of an underground sensation over the past few years, with Ornuthi Thalassa coming out of nowhere in 2017 to destroy listeners with the main dude whose name I can neither spell nor be bothered to look up’s signature brand of spiraling black/death intensity.  Since that debut their profile has only grown, with last year’s Mirror in Darkness managing to rank in the Top 30 across all genres on RYM, and the subject of this review, Endless Detainment, currently sitting at the pole position in the EP category for this year.

Each release has gotten more and more chaotic, and the current result of that ever-unfurling sonic degloving is an album so twisted that it eats nails and shits corkscrews.  There isn’t even really a thematic thruline I can use within the context of this review to help it make sense, because around every new turn in the music is a new ghoul, a new trap door, a new falling rock.  Everything is a trap and it’s a confusing and violent nightmare.  Take a look at “Arachnain”, likely the best example of this album’s utter distaste for the safe and familiar.  It starts off with the closest thing to a “normal” riff you’re going to find across the entire twentyish minutes of Endless Detainment, with a quick trill and a few chugs, you can’t help but feel like this is an illusion.  Nothing up to this point has been so simple and groovy.  After the whirlwind of broken glass that was “Violence Aesthete”, there’s no way Mr. Column even has the impulse control necessary to stick to something catchy.  And he doesn’t, because before you know it, that simple riff is accompanied by bass and percussion that feel juuuuust a bit wrong, and by the time you can likely comprehend what the interplay between al the instruments is supposed to be well surprise now you’re careening down Willy Wonka’s Boat Ride to Hell.

A lot of people around the ‘net (as the kids say) have been citing a huge uptick in influence from mathcore, particularly Dillinger Escape Plan.  I’m unprofessional as fuck and only have a surface level knowledge of what mathcore even is, so I’m just going to parrot that citation and hope it’s correct.  I can understand it from what little knowledge I have though, as “Pantheoclasm” sounds dangerously close to what genre purists accused Deathspell Omega of being when Circumspice first dropped.  That influence is definitely there, and the first handful of songs in a row all exemplify that sort of dutch-angled firing-squad of riffage, “Manure in Pearls” specifically being the one that crushes my brain the hardest.

I’ve forgotten how to review and I’m going to abuse my reputation to post this rambling bullshit anyway.  The point of all this is that Serpent Column is extremely good, and if you look outside of MA you can tell that it’s really catching on elsewhere.  Hopefully someday the largest and most historically important website for metal culture catches up, because this fucking rules. 

Rating: 88%

Yellow Eyes – Rare Field Ceiling

What the hell is a Rare Field Ceiling?

Yellow Eyes’ fourth album Immersion Trench Reverie was one of my black metal highlights of 2017, so I was pretty excited for the follow up. Rare Field Ceiling (what does that even mean lol) is a much thicker mixture of dissonance than its predecessor. While it’s a good effort, I can’t help but be left a bit cold, if only because of the weight of expectations. Rare Field Ceiling eschews the alpine atmosphere that kept me coming back to Immersion Trench Reverie. While I’ve enjoyed it each time I’ve listened to it, this one hasn’t become a staple in my black metal listening diet the way its predecessor has.

The Skarstad brothers, who lead the band, have said that leading up to the album there have been a series of devastating health crises in their family (God, I wish that wasn’t so relatable), and that it couldn’t help but have a big impact on the album. I think this makes a lot of sense. While you still have some subtle melody, as well as samples of bells, women’s choirs and the like, this is a much darker album than Immersion Trench Reverie. The production is intentionally rough and muddy and they lean much harder on their dissonant side than their melodic one. While Immersion Trench Reveries brought to mind images of forests and mountaintops, Rare Ceiling Fan almost has the atmosphere of an industrial wasteland. Actually, it reminds me a lot of the movie Stalker where it’s still in sepia and they’re sneaking through the industrial section leading up to the zone.

Yellow Eyes have long had an obscure streak, but I find the song titles to be particularly amusing here. With song titles like “Light Delusion Curtain” and “Nutrient Painting”, thematically they can be as obscure as the music sometimes proves to be. The production here is raw and muddy, the songs structures atypical and everything kind of congeals into this thick, molassesy stream of dissonance. We do have some off-kilter melody penetrating the murk, and it’s a welcome inclusion. Mike is as good as always on the drums, and the rasps are strong and pained. The album is a very dreary affair that kind of ends up blurring into one experience, rather than there being standout songs.

It’s pretty funny that one of the brothers takes on gigs like making commercial Christmas music for Reese Peanut Butter Cups commercials. The swirling shroud of dissonance that comprises Rare Ceiling Fan is about as far away from that world as you can get. While this does not reach the towering alpine peaks of Immersion Trench Reverie, it is still a welcome addition to the Yellow Eyes discography. Featuring a much more dreary and opaque vibe, it is good at what it does an still one of the stronger black metal albums I’ve heard out of 2019.

Rating: 80%

Bartushka – Hospodi

Do not buy this

The title cannot be reiterated enough – even if you like the teaser material for this album, under no circumstances should you buy it from the label. It’s the work of a man who pulled the rug from underneath a genuine artist’s feet to make a cash-grab, and it should not be supported in any way. Bart here may have the legal basis for carrying on with the name, but that certainly doesn’t make him the honest actor in the drama surrounding this album. Should anyone think I’m being unfair by being prejudiced against this release for the drama and not solely focusing on the music, all I have to say is that bringing this external drama up is necessary in judging the album as it would not exist without the drama and like any album its contents have been affected by the context it was constructed in. It’s a lazy cash-grab that truly sounds like just that – it’s a cobbled together load of rubbish that bears no meaningful resemblance to anything approaching a Batushka album.

The common thread that runs throughout is that the material is entirely derivative, lacking any identity or memorability. There is not an original bone in this album’s body; its boldest idea is the mix of choral and harsh vocals, which are ripped off from Litourgiya. The guitarwork is taken from a few sources of inspiration – the astonishingly crappy groove riffs and chugs that pop up from time to time being one example. The unending tremolo throughout the songs makes a lot of the guitarwork here sound like cast off/riffless Nightbringer or Litourgiya material. There are also some references to less riffy symphonic black metal acts, and there are some thrashier riffs at points, most notably on the track ‘Utrenia’ but it’s mostly tremolo-heavy, riffless fluff. Overall Hospodi listens like the work of a coattail riding second-string band with no identity of its own that apes a bunch of different sounds, one of which happens to be Litourgiya. For the most part this doesn’t listen like a Batushka album at all, or a development from Litourgiya, though clearly the band is trying hard to evoke its atmosphere and aesthetics with some very surface-level and forced references to it musically.

Another common factor in the material is that it is almost entirely mid-paced. The band never really picks up the pace or slows down to a drudging crawl; they’re entirely content to sit at a very uniform ‘not really fast but not really slow’ tempo. By doing this the music is erased of any potential points of contrast – there is no chance for a crushing, doom-like passage or a much faster, blast-filled section here. Variation in tempo is not a must for good music but with music this shallow the last thing it needs is to have another layer of potential variation stripped from it. It makes the music even more flat than it would have been, as there is no attempt to alter the mood using the tempo.

Making matters worse is that the songwriting is abysmal. Many of the songs here feature big stretches devoted to building up to something, usually in the form of tremolo and chords atop of double bass and choral vocals borrowed from Litourgiya. The first problem with this is that these build-ups lead to absolutely nothing – in place of climaxes the band routinely delivers an anti-climax in the form of a weak groovy/chugging/slower riff or quiet sections with faint choral vocals and guitars ringing in the background. This has the effect of making the songs feel like parts of the cutting room floor stapled together in the same way over and over again, as opposed to pieces that were actually written as one from start to finish. The second is that the band simply cannot find a way to increase the intensity of their music beyond making it louder with more tremolo, more choral vocals, and more double bass. The music never actually feels more aggressive during these moments, and as a result the buildups that the band spend so much time doing don’t even feel like they’re building up to anything, they listen more like an idea stretched far past the point of being remotely fresh. Tracks will start and end at seemingly arbitrary points, as it feels as if there is no reason why something is happening within them. The tracks don’t build up to anything meaningful, they don’t end in a satisfying way and taken as a whole they don’t even flow properly or feel like a complete journey. This is just about every track on the album, with only ‘Powieczerje’ and ‘Polunosznica’ really feeling like they were written with any care or attention paid to them.

The uniform tempo and equally uniform (lack of) songwriting highlights the next big issue with the album, which is that it is unbelievably copy-paste and very short on ideas. Once you’ve heard one song here you’ve basically heard them all, as the band has nothing to offer beyond rejected Litourgiya non-riffs, Eastern Orthodox-inspired choral vocals, one style of black metal rasp and some utterly flat meandering passages that give way to anti-climactic points, all at one tempo. Ideas get drawn out to the point of becoming stale within songs as the band clearly have no idea how to develop these ideas, and across the album the same tropes get repeated over and over meaning that songs will bleed together as the album wears on and the listener’s mind wanders as they wait for a song to end. Needless to say the songs are far, far too long for how flat and musically bankrupt they really are, and just a few tracks in you’ll be reaching for the pause button. This kills the atmosphere the band spend so much time trying to evoke, and while listening you’ll struggle to feel anything from the music because nothing about its composition or substance is inspiring enough to do that.

This is a miserable failure of a release. It’s obvious when listening who the brains behind Litourgiya was – sure that release was flawed but the regression displayed here is stunning. What few ideas the music presents are inferior copies of other people’s work that then get drawn out to oblivion across every song and the album as a whole. On top of all of this, there is no reason for it to exist beyond cashing in on the clout of an idea that wasn’t Bart’s at all. If you want a new Batushka album, go and buy Панихида, and stay miles away from this, because it’s a waste of time for anybody who chooses to listen to it. This is nothing but an effortless cash-grab; a lazy work that was cobbled together to get another release with the Batushka name on it out of the door. It’s vapid, shallow, soulless and thoroughly devoid of anything interesting.

It’s an embarrassment.

Rating: 13%

Deathspell Omega – Manifestations 2000 – 2001

Re-opening the vault

Manifestations 2000-2001 was one of two compilations released by DsO back in 2008, along with Manifestations 2002. It is comprised of material previously released on a couple of splits and a V/A compilation from the early part of the ’00s, as the title suggests, with the songs coming from two distinct recording sessions. It’s an interesting look at the pre-Aspa phase of DsO’s career – a time before they had truly found their sound or any notability in the metal world at large – and despite being overshadowed by its more notable and consistent sibling, is still of note to fans as it is a neatly packaged collection of material that would otherwise be scattered across multiple obscure releases.

The music itself is very typical of this phase of DsO’s career, to the extent that this material could easily have fit onto Inquisitors of Satan. It draws heavily from the likes of Darkthrone (mostly Transilvanian Hunger) insofar as it relies on the generally speedy repetition of melodic riffs atop a straight-forward blast beat-driven drum performance, but the nods to thrash in some of the riffs and the alternation between these and more typical second-wave inspired material points to Gorgoroth as a notable influence too. The vocals are very redolent of these influences – Shaxul’s unchanging rasp lies somewhere between Nocturno Culto and Hat and fit the music well. There are a lot of high quality riffs and they’re strung together well, they don’t dwell in one place for too long with songs consistently pushing forward (which is needed when every song breaks the 6 minute mark) and the band does well to craft an atmosphere with such basic and well-worn tools, a testament to the quality of the music.

As stated these 6 tracks are from two recording sessions – the first two come from an early 2001 session while the last four come from an early 2000 recording session. This is relevant as there is a very clear divide between the two; not so much in style but in recording quality. The first two tracks feature a typically clear, cold sound with prominently mixed snares and a somewhat delay-heavy guitar tone – very reminiscent of a crisper, higher fidelity version of Inquisitors of Satan‘s sound as well as the sound on Pentagram. The latter four meanwhile feature lower fidelity, noisier production with clickier, thinner drums and similarly thinner, hazier guitars, though these tracks ultimately sound much cleaner than anything from Infernal Battles which came out a few months after their recording. The former plays more to the strengths of the music by giving it more punch and clarity, while the more atmospheric production of the latter 4 tracks makes them less effective by doing the opposite.

The basic problems here are the same with everything else the band were doing before Mikko Aspa joined the fold and Si Monumentum… came out, in that while the material is good it isn’t that remarkable in the end, with a distinct lack of identity and therefore memorability. It also suffers from the same curse those first two albums do, in that there’s not much reason to listen to it outside of historical curiosity. What followed this and related material set new standards for what could be achieved by the band and modern BM bands in general, making them immediately less relevant on a purely musical level. Another problem is that the compilation is incomplete; DsO’s side of their split with Clandestine Blaze from around the same time is nowhere to be found here, which is a pity as those tracks are also exclusive to that split and stylistically would fit right in with this crop of tracks.

Despite its incompleteness and derivative nature, it’s a solid collection of tracks – a worthwhile curio for fans of the band, but only if they actually enjoy the first phase of their career; those who don’t need not apply, obviously. Those who thoroughly enjoy either of their first two albums (especially Inquisitors) will find plenty to enjoy here, and for those who haven’t heard either of their first two albums this is worth a few listens to get a sense of where the band were coming from with SMRC. Not essential by any means, but good.

Rating: 65%

Ulver – Nattens Madrigal – Aatte Hymne til Ulven i Manden

Snore

It’s very obvious that Ulver haven’t wanted to play black metal for many years (having not played anything approaching it after this album, and having dropped it and Bergtatt from their live shows altogether), but honestly this album has me firmly believing that the band didn’t really want to play black metal even when they were playing it. It’s already telling that of the two metal albums they have, Bergtatt stands out more for its less aggressive and softer moments, but it’s even more telling that this, the purest example of black metal in their catalogue, still stands as an album so fundamentally flawed that it listens almost like a parody of what was going on at the time. It’s also quite possibly the worst album of their entire career, even after more than 20 years since its release.

On this album, Ulver go for a very minimal and raw take on Norwegian black metal. It’s clear that Transilvanian Hunger was a point of reference; I’m aware this is a common comparison but it is common for a reason. The music is primarily built upon the basic repetition of just a few melodic black metal riffs (though this album is less droning and hypnotic than the Darkthrone album) atop an endless stream of blast beats and with an unchanging and serviceable (if unremarkable) black metal rasp. The riffs here are consistently good or even great: they are aggressive and memorable, and keep the energy of the music up as the band flow from one riff to the next – ‘I’ in particular has some truly stellar guitarwork throughout it. There are also some brief, tranquil acoustic breaks in a few of the tracks; Ulver had already proven themselves with this style on the previous two albums so they are the standout moments on the album. The drumming does get rather monotonous after a while (even Transilvanian Hunger had more going on in this department) and Garm sticking to harsh vocals when his singing is what made him stand out is a shame, but aside from this the substance of this album is up to scratch; these aren’t especially major flaws. However, where this falls down is that this is clearly music that requires atmosphere to be effective, and the sound of this album pretty much wrecks any chance of one being built.

Much has been made of this album’s production and with good reason – it is its most crippling flaw. For those who haven’t heard what it sounds like, it is under-produced to the point of ruining the listening experience. Every note of the music is buried under a layer of static and all but the treble frequencies have been removed entirely. Now, it’s clear that raw production would benefit the material but the way it’s been carried out here completely ruins the music. The material does not benefit from this sound; it doesn’t come across as primal or distant or cold due to the production, rather it goes against everything the band wanted to achieve here. It’s hard to tell if this is actually is a high-fidelity recording that was made raw after the fact but it listens like it; the rawness stands out as being incredibly forced and artificial as for all the implied hostility and darkness of the sound it does not make the music feel that way at all. Instead, the music sounds sterile and utterly passionless due to being so under-produced, which totally wrecks the atmosphere. As this is an album that is reliant on said atmosphere it pretty much kneecaps the music and renders it largely ineffective. Another problem is that the sound is so piercing that even after several years I still cannot listen to this at a reasonable volume with my headphones in, and frankly it’s still a grating chore to listen to even on my PC speakers. It is a uniquely horrible and unbearable listening experience as it is an unending stream of trebly riffing – not even power electronics, harsh noise or notably trebly metal albums like …and Justice for All prove to be this grating at a reasonable volume – the sound only furthers the disconnect I have with the music.

It’s no use warning people off this, any black metal fan has heard it at least once and they know if they like it or not, but Nattens Madrigal is truly one of the biggest ‘the emperor has no clothes’ metal albums for me. It’s the sound of a band throwing out what they’ve proven themselves to be good at (folk music and laid back melodic black metal) and instead forcing a sound they clearly did not have that much interest in to begin with, judging by the quality of this and how quickly they jumped ship from metal altogether. It has its redeeming qualities for sure but overall it is simply not good, and a colossal disappointment from a band that had delivered and would continue to deliver a lot of great material.

Rating: 35%

Nokturnal Mortum – Нехристь (NeChrist)

Гітлер любив слов’ян, правда?

I do wonder what the band was trying to achieve when they were writing this album. I’d say it’s a joke, where they’re trying to derive humour from playing music that is intentionally awful but I can’t be certain if this is the case, as so much effort has been put into being dreadful that it’s entirely possible that they actually think this is good music that people wanted to hear. It’s also possible that out of sheer hatred for the listener that they deliberately sought to craft the worst music imaginable. Regardless of their intent, this is a dreadful, offensively terrible album. It’s not so much a step down from the two preceding Nokturnal Mortum full lengths as it is a tumble down 10 flights of stairs from them – it’s a trainwreck which is full of ideas that are either too sloppily executed or stupid to ever work. Shit at its finest, thy name is NeChrist.

There are numerous glaring flaws with this album but the one that rises above all is how flat out… bad it sounds. The melodic sense of the riffs and keys is non-existent, with the melodies sounding like garbage throughout. Not a single riff will stick with you but the entire time a track is on they grate with how badly they’re constructed. The keys are a similar story and are literally thrown on top of the riffs with zero regard for how they go together, and indeed they do not mesh in any way whatsoever. The two layers clash against one another in a very unlikable way; it makes for truly ugly music in the worst possible sense. Don’t get me wrong here; I have no issue with amelodic, dissonant or otherwise ugly and abrasive music but this clearly wasn’t constructed as anything along the lines of Obscura and what not; it uses the same stylistic features of folk music and symphonic black metal as their past work while missing out on everything that makes those albums and the style as a whole appealing. Or to put it another way, they took their melody driven style and didn’t write any good melodies for it. Since this is the fabric of the music, it is rendered entirely worthless and awful; the album is a total non-starter.

And even when the keys and riffs aren’t grinding against one another (which seldom occurs) both manage to be wholly forgettable and bland; the same can be said of the overly simplistic, restrictive and generic thrash-inspired drumming (a substantial regression compared to the stellar drumming on Goat Horns) and the much weaker vocal performance that doesn’t take charge in the music as it usually would. On top of this are the folk sections, which sound less like traditional Ukrainian folk music and more like bad Southern American folk music. These sections are all over these tracks and sound terrible every single time. Throw on top of this what sounds like elephant flatulence at some points and shouts of ‘Yahoo!’ at others and the album goes from absurdly awful-sounding to downright comical.

Have I made my point yet? This is complete trash and I never want to hear it again.

Rating: 0%

1349 – Revelations of the Black Flame

A failed experiment

This album marked the exact point where 1349 eschewed everything they had achieved with their previous 4 releases in favour of a drastic change to their established sound. I find this to be a potentially good manoeuvre as they’d taken their blast-filled style of old to its logical conclusion with Hellfire, yet at the same time I think it’s a risky one. As history has proven drastically changing style doesn’t always work for bands with a tried and true craft, because they’ve spent so much time perfecting one craft that a sudden shift often leads to a band playing a style they don’t care about as much (leading to a lack of energy and creativity for the style at hand) or know as much about because they’re newcomers to the style. This risk is amplified by the fact that the new sound displayed on this album is an experimental one, and as we know experiments by their very nature fail more than they succeed, as they’re a charge into the unknown. And it is with all this in mind that I have made up my mind on Revelations of the Black Flame – it is simply a failed experiment. It isn’t a forward thinking and innovative piece and it most assuredly isn’t their best.

As you may have guessed this is an experimental black metal album, with the experimentation being employed in two major ways – the heavy use of crawling dark ambient interludes between the black metal songs, and the unusually constructed, riffing with dissonant chords and an odd number of repetitions used during the black metal portions of the album. For what it’s worth though there isn’t that much that is ‘weird’ on this album; it is a marriage of droning dark ambient with slightly odd sounding black metal. One problem that can be gleaned from this is that these basic ideas are never taken to their conclusion; merely coming across as an aesthetic rather than part of an experimental core to the music. Everything on this album is for lack of a better word, standard. There isn’t a lot of thought or creativity put into this, it is merely an assembly of standard elements dressed up in an unusual way and comes across as shallow and trite. The album offers little beyond these basic elements and makes it very boring and unsatisfying to listen to, knowing that it could have been something more.

A bigger issue though is that the standard issue material at hand here is written in a lacklustre fashion. The songs are played with very little energy, instead being sluggish and droning in nature. The riffs are in fact the worst aspect of the album, because as soon as they come in the atmosphere set by the ambient sections is wrecked in favour of stilted and awkward black metal. Even worse though is that the songs take too long to get going and even at their most intense feel phoned in and tepid, as do the other performances. The pummelling battery Frost once delivered behind the kit is almost entirely gone, and the powerful and commanding voice of Ravn is now wholly irrelevant to the music at large, being simply some noise among the weak riffs and decent ambient. The songs themselves are flat and boring too – not only are they cut off at the knees due to the half-hearted performances but in general they lack a coherent structure or a satisfying conclusion of any sort, instead meandering for the majority of their respective running times and not achieving too much in the process. For songs that are so long, they never really manage to be memorable or have enough good ideas or structural intrigue to justify their lengths.

The whole album lacks any sort of fire or creativity, and at every turn reveals how poorly executed it is. From the structuring and pacing of the songs to the production right down to its very sound it doesn’t work all that well. The band simply didn’t try hard enough, which becomes apparent because while some individual sections are decent the album as one unit fails overall. The ambient parts for instance are good for what they are; if this were a purely dark ambient album it would at least turn out to be mediocre. As it stands though it is simply forgettable and awkwardly written black metal with some somewhat appealing window dressing, and while it isn’t worthless, it sure doesn’t offer much to a prospective listener. Whether this album turned out as it did due to a lack of knowledge or a lack of care when writing it, it stands as a great example of why experimentation isn’t always a good trait in music.

Rating: 33%

Dimmu Borgir – For All Tid

For Ass Tid

In general, Dimmu Borgir is a divisive entity. As well as receiving praise for their symphonic take on black metal, they’ve earned scorn in several circles (generally those of a more purist persuasion) for going against the genre’s ethos; a band with the intent of making relatively accessible and polished metal draped with superficial black metal influence. However, these same individuals will routinely point to For All Tid and its successor Stormblåst as being the definitive Dimmu Borgir albums. Frankly I don’t see it this way at all – as shallow and safe their later albums are, they are least competently executed, polished and well-crafted, which is more than can be said of their first two albums. This in particular easily stands as the worst Dimmu Borgir album, and while it isn’t an abomination it certainly isn’t worthy of its classic status. It has its moments but it almost seems as if the band stumbled upon these good ideas by chance given the general sloppiness and poor musical execution displayed on this album. It reeks of inexperience and overshooting one’s mark.

The production on this album is very poor – though lo-fi production is a common trope of the genre, there’s a certain degree of intelligence to giving an album raw production. If we look at say, Transilvanian Hunger, that album sounds as though the songs were written and performed specifically so the production can add to and complement the album’s atmosphere, with everything being drenched in static as to make the drums, vocals and riffs sound otherworldly and cryptic. The issue here is that like a lot of amateur black metal musicians, Dimmu Borgir made a serious blunder regarding the sound: the mistaking of a bad sound for a raw one. The guitars are overly thin and gunky, sounding sterile and vague all at once, as well as being too quiet. The drums are inconsequential in the mix, being a thin hissing click that blends into the background. The keyboards sound cheap, like a bad ’90s video game soundtrack. The bass and vocals are both too loud, with both obscuring the riffs with the continuous plugging of the former and the all-consuming reverb of the latter. As a result of this the album comes across as dated, unlike the timeless classics this band’s fellow countrymen were churning out around this time.

The band plays a friendlier and softer take on the black metal sound, with highly melodic riffs that don’t carry a lot of aggression and a notable keyboard presence that serve to sweeten up the package. However, despite this being an album built around guitar melodies few of them tend to be memorable, much to the detriment of the album. Partially this is because of the aforementioned obscuring of the riffs by the surrounding instruments but mainly this is down to them simply not being that well written or captivating. The same can be said of the keyboards, which are sadly underused on this album, despite being present throughout. They too play largely forgettable and uninteresting lines; which isn’t helped by the fact that they are simply an undercurrent to the rest of the music, one which can be ignored most of the time. The vocals are serviceable croaky black metal rasps, even if as stated they are mixed too loudly. The drumming however is simply awful, being uncertain and out of time. The drummer simply cannot blast for any given length of time, and completely wrecks any consistency this band might have achieved in a song.

The atmosphere on this album is an odd one; there’s a very distant and melancholic feel to some of the keyboard lines and melodies, particularly those in the title track or ‘Under korpens vinger’, which are the only songs which consistently retain a mood. The rest of the music, despite being fairly overwrought in aesthetic, evokes no real mood at all due to little meaningful use of the keyboards and not playing much worthwhile content to begin with. It is therefore no surprise to find that these two are the best songs on the album, along with the 5 minute intro ‘Det Nye Riket’ with its simple yet effective piano lines and sombre and low spoken word passages. ‘Glittertind’ is another clear highlight due to both its quality and it being an instrumental, as it can therefore escape the overly loud mood-wrecking vocal performance. It should be stated however that these are highlights relative to the rest of the album, and aren’t in any way standouts in the pantheon of black metal or this band’s own discography.

The real area where this album falls is the frankly nonsensical structuring and pacing of the songs. All of the songs on this album, even its standouts, seemingly meander about for the majority of their duration. The band generally shoehorn in a lot of differing passages at once, from the keys to rapid, blasting passages to bizarrely bouncing punk riffs and dissonant, traditional black metal riffs which don’t mix with the keys or the mood of the album at all – there are even synthesised flutes and other such effects that sound comical and ruin any atmosphere the music might otherwise have. Despite throwing several ideas into every song the band simply lack the expertise and vision to execute any of them with a particular level of finesse or compose any structured songs out of them. The performances feel uncertain and haphazard, as do the transitions from one passage to another. Songs never really reach a satisfying conclusion or resolve in any meaningful way and tend towards being two-dimensional, with no real intense or climactic passages to speak of. The band never gets their act together outside of a few solid songs, which are still marred by most of the aforementioned flaws.

The main arguments for this album appear to be derived from metaphors and aesthetics rather than any sort of meaningful musical elements. The songs wander about like someone who’s lost – but any sort of memorability and meaning to the majority of the material is lost due to the arcane structuring of the songs. The production may be hazy but it also sounds terrible and actually works against the mood in a lot of cases with its easily obscured guitars and poor mix. There’s almost nothing in the way of musical texture due to the overly sparse and underused keys as well as the forgettable riffing and the all too vague guitar tone. The wonky performances, particularly the drumming, leave the listener feeling as confused and uncertain of the album as the band obviously was while performing. It is clear that a lot of the more lacklustre material here could have been fairly solid songs had they been written by competent musicians (and similarly the decent songs here could have been made great) but any quality is simply lost in translation here. There’s better wandering and melodic black metal out there; don’t waste your time with this.

Rating: 30%

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