Twenty-four years since “Satyr” Wongraven and “Frost” Haraldstad came together in unholy musical matrimony, the core that makes up Satyricon have unveiled their ninth full-length album, Deep Calleth Upon Deep (Napalm). For the handful of uninitiated amongst thee, this was a band that initially set out refining folk-tinged Black Metal, before creating, defining and killing Urban Black Metal in one fell swoop (only Admiron Black – also Moonfog – by Gehenna came close) with the meisterstück and game-changing Rebel Extravaganza (Moonfog). Always one of the genre leaders, both in terms of quality and innovation, their boldness was rewarded with a profile turbo-boost courtesy of Pantera taking them out as main support. Continue reading
Sitting somewhere between an EP and a full-length album, :taudr: (Trollmusic) is the newest release by Swedish Viking enthusiasts King of Asgard. Featuring five tracks focusing mainly on death and the afterlife, this latest record follows on from their 2014 release, Karg (Metal Blade) and continues, rather unsurprisingly, in the same Nordic/Black/Folk Metal vein as before. Continue reading
I’m going to just come right out with it – I’ve never really seen the appeal of Dødheimsgard (I refuse to call them DHG – that’s non-negotiable). Their third album 666 International created a considerable wave in the late 90’s Black Metal scene, heralding a cyber-future that had the fans wiping off their panda-paint and buying glowsticks and leather trench-coats, but neither it, nor its equally feted follow-up Supervillain Outcast (both Moonfog), really clicked for me. The “progression” seemed too forced, the electronic elements awkwardly realised and the whole thing just a little too redolent of the Emperor’s new clothes.
I point this out simply because I’m about to lose my shit over A Umbra Omega (Peaceville), and I want to make it clear that I’m not just buying into the general consensus here – with this one, they’ve finally caught my attention.
Despite opening with the glitchy, fragmented electronics of ‘The Love Divine’, one of the first things that becomes apparent about A Umbra Omega is that the “cyber” elements of the last two albums have been dialled down noticeably, replaced with a much broader selection of influences. The songs move jaggedly but with surprising fluidity through Jazz breaks, modern classical music, more restrained electronics and some good, old-fashioned box-of-angry-wasps Scandinavian Black Metal.
It will doubtless anger some fans to say this, but there’s something almost backwards-looking or quaint about A Umbra Omega’s approach to progression. The face of “avant-garde” Black Metal in 2015 is very different to what it was in 1996, and Dødheimsgard’s approach still owes more to the carnivalesque playfulness of Arcturus or goth-tinged drug babble of Ved Buens Ende than DeathSpell Omega or Blut Aus Nord’s chaotic black-hole worship (this review brought to you by hyperbole.com). This is by no means a criticism – indeed, Dødheimsgard remind us of the one thing that the newer style of “experimental” Black Metal bands often forget to include in their time-shifting trans-dimensional horror; character. Despite how wacky things get here, there’s a constant sense of personality, wit and style that pervades each track on A Umbra Omega, drawing together what could otherwise be disparate musical elements into a genuinely effective whole.
As I observed in my recent review of the new <code> album, being weird is ultimately a fool’s quest – each year it gets harder and yields diminishing rewards. Perhaps that’s where Dødheimsgard lost me on previous releases – being experimental and breaking new ground seemed to be the primary objective – but on A Umbra Omega they sound like a band who’ve come to terms with their own weirdness and focussed on the task of writing a really excellent set of songs around it, rather than showing off how wacky they are. A genuine master-class in why Black Metal can still be interesting without having to choose between retro-traditionalism or forced experimentation.