ALBUM NAME: Härd
RELEASE DATE: August 28, 2020
GENRE: Black Metal
- Holmberg (Vocals)
- Weinestedt (Guitar)
- Frödeberg Karlin (Bass Guitar/Guitar)
- Thunarf (Drums/Guitar)
Swedish black metal has always been, for the most part, a lot more aggressive and blastbeaty than their more prominent and notorious neighbours in Norway. Whereas the Norse hordes tend to focus on ambience and raw, unearthly sonic nastiness, the Swedes have traditionally put all their energy on the almighty riff and an ungodly assault on the senses. Both have their place in the black metal canon and both feed different audio sensibilities, but it’s always the guys that paint outside the expected box that make any real impact (Dissection being the ultimate example).
Svederna, whilst not breaking any barriers or changing the face of the genre in any way, succeed in making Swedish black metal with just enough additional elements to distance themselves from any real ‘scene’ and create a hellish galaxy all of their own. On their latest album, ‘Härd’, the music is a grim face of modern life but, and don’t take this the wrong way, it actually sounds, well, fun.
Ingrained in the tremolo riffage are black ‘n roll punky backbeats, active and audible basslines, and a fat stack of tone that creates a warm vibe without losing an iota of po-faced grimness (yes, it’s a necessary factor). The band sound vibrantly alive and, since the recording was knocked out in a slim week, it’s entirely possible that the band recorded in one room and locked in together, which always provides an authentic and human outcome. Holmberg’s vocals are upfront and high in the mix, which is just as well as they are vicious and harsh, and give off an almost Shining-esque feel in their pained expression. The lyrics are Swedish, but the intent is immediate and blasted in barks, shrieks and howls that will unnerve the hardest bastard regardless of understanding, and the vocal barrage holds everything together with psychotic urgency.
The guitar melodies, especially in songs like ‘Tempelhärd’, are dark and expressive, but there is a shitload of actual melody and conversational intricacy that hold a musical conversation, and it is these lines that build each of the tracks up to a different plateau of black metal, a rarely-explored territory that has a lot to offer and is a dangerous area for those acts that believe they need to remain as pigeon-holed as possible to keep their kvlt passports stamped. The rhythm section is impeccably tight and analogue and cannot be faulted, and the production is clear as mountain air and tastier than double mac ‘n cheese.
There are no standout tracks or songs that might be ‘hit singles’ – this is more of an album experience that should be digested as one meal instead of pulling it apart and ruining the overall impact. That said, ‘Sanndrömmar Om Evigt Lidande’ is a solo classical guitar piece that is not only played with precision and delightful tone, but is constructed with the utmost care and excels on every level, removing itself from the ‘unnecessary instrumental interlude’ category that plagues so many fine albums these days. The rest of the record is brutal, beautiful, ballsy, and marches to the sound of its own drum.
‘Härd’ is an album for lovers of black metal that doesn’t fit a mould, doesn’t aim to ape its inspirations, and will satisfy those craving something a little different that isn’t completely avant-garde. This is black metal with swagger and attitude, and separates itself from the herd by being a joy to listen to. So do it. A lot.
Reviewed by: John Morrow
Artwork by: Björn Underek Lidberg
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