Sunday, October 06, 2013

Blodsgard - Monument (2013)

September 30th, 2013
The Oath

| Imploding stars and all life devoured |

Many have disproved the notion that the Norwegian scene still holds the king's scepter of European black metal, especially with the rising artillery of countries like Germany and France these years, or the ongoing, steady quality scene of Sweden. Most of the old bands have transformed into something alternate, they have chosen other musical paths or simply lost the flame that burned their young souls twenty years ago, whereas the new bands don't always deliver something as captivating as their ancestors, with few but significant exceptions.

One exception is this band from Oslo, which mainly consists of two members and their debut full length album Monument appears to be one of the very best albums of the year. I first came across Blodsgard with their 2010 Promo and more importantly, the Solve Et Coagula EP/demo they released in 2011. I remember being blown away by their prodigious sound and I was eager to listen to more by them, which sadly led to a dead end, since they had not released anything else apart from a 2008 demo which was nowhere to be found then.

In Solve Et Coagula, there are tracks that describe the very definition of the genre, with tremendous, hammering power at full extent and therefore I gave it spins all the time, to supress my need for something complete by them. My eyes bled happiness when I saw the cover of Monument (and what a nice cover that is, done by Mark Cooper) several months before it's release date, when they announced that they had almost finished the long, five year work on the new album.

A work that included re-recordings, rearrangements, remixings, small improvements on various parts of the album, since the band had all the time they needed in their own studio, with no rush or anxiety. Monument contains eight tracks, four of which are remastered versions of the ones in the EP, while all the drumming in here is programmed, even though they do have found a drummer by now. Lyrics are all in Norwegian by Stein Akslen, but English translations are provided by the band.

The ceremony begins with a sample introduction of rain and thunder, into the first track "Pakallelsen", which blasts into the angry, agressive and furious ear assault via a pure Norwegian aesthetic. The production is phenomenal, offering the perfect instrument balance and a demolishing, cutthroating sound. I adore the devastating vocals of Fredrik Rex, which are not simple, studio made screams. They hold a definitive rage, showing wonderful competence and character. The next two tracks, "Mentalt minefelt" and "Sjeler vil brenne", are both very precious gemstones.

I can't remember the last time I was overwhelmed that much by new extreme music of their country, if not extreme music in general. It's black metal executed with precision and profound care. The fourth "Hagalls sirkel" continues on the same cataclysmic pace, adding a beautiful synth-like melody in the middle of the song, something that defines its supremacy. There is a relentless bombardment of amazing riffs and blast beats everywhere and it is intense as it can be. The second half of the album, tracks 5 to 8, is notably slower, without missing it's speedy and energetic parts.

The self-titled track starts off with a sorrowful, clean guitar introduction and whispering vocals, before a church organ and distorted guitar are ventilated into it. The drums are almost non-existent here, making the track a chanting hymn that adds to the overall darkness. The beginning of "Livet er avlyst" is pure dungeon-like ambient, before exploding into a ferocious attack of blast beats, cutting riffs and merciless vocals. The song is a coalescence between dreamy ambient with agonizing black metal, as if the calm and the storm were fused into one piece.

"Kaoskonstruksjorn" sets off with a sound of horns and it's as savaging as the previous tracks, consisting of two heavy and two calmer parts. The last track "Svart blod flyter" was originally called "Mitt blod flyter" but changed, and it's the longest on the album, clocking up to nine minutes. It's middle paced and dreadful, with various piano / synth lines, clean singing and piteous melodies, while the lyrics are equally depressing. It ends with rain and thunder sounds, similar to the way it started, as a farewell to the listener.

I would not be exaggerating if I said that this will be the best black metal album of the year. It's sophisticated, well-constructed, diverse and rich in musical variety, with a fascinating mixture of ideas that makes them shine among lookalike bands. It gives them their own sound, which not only touches brilliance, but also makes them memorable and unique.

Coming from the dark, northern corner of the earth, from the solitary minds of two indivuals possessed by the essence of their craft, they have sculpted a masterpiece with enough screaming anger for you to embrace, as well as ambient passages to bemoan upon. This band is young and full of ideas, it has the means and the tools to create music, it's shimmering potential can't go unnoticed.

DAMAGE: 9.75/10

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  1. This is my album of the year, for sure. Really amazing.