Album: Revelations of the Red Sword
Label: Van Records
Genre: Black Metal
Release Date: December 3rd, 2018
We humans as a species have been through countless “Armageddons.” I’m twenty-six and I’ve already lived through enough for it to feel like crying wolf. Svartidauði seem to be one of the few anticipating the end as their new record Revelations of the Red Sword is set to be released six years after the (Mayan Calendar) apocalypse and is about “….waiting with anticipation for the inevitable heat death of the universe.”
Svartidauði are the flagship Icelandic black metal band even though this is only their second full length album after their 2012 debut six years ago, (again, around the “apocalypse”) Flesh Cathedral. Flesh Cathedral was an absolutely stellar debut from the group. Reaching over fifty minutes in four tracks, it was an epic but dense listen. After six years and a handful of EPs, Svartidauði have returned with Revelations of the Red Sword. The album has more concise writing than their debut did with the album being 6 tracks and finishing around 48 minutes; the longest track, Aureum Lux, would be one of the shorter songs on Flesh Cathedral. However, the group has managed not to lose any of their avant-garde identity and have managed to make their album as a whole flow better.
Revelations of the Red Sword is definitely a full-album experience. There are recurring motifs throughout the record, the songs transition into each other flawlessly and keep you engaged throughout your entire listen. While I haven’t delved into the lyrics myself, the promo summary describes it as an album celebrating the sun in all its powerful and destructive glory. The album artwork itself seems to show a gorgeous rendition of the sun with a snarling demonic dog coming out of the center (Either a reference to Wolves of the Red Sun or The Howling Cynocephali). The artwork does a great job of visually representing the album and enticing any potential listeners to check it out.
The sound of this record is astounding. There is a lot going on with dizzying drumming, ferocious vocals, & arpeggiated guitarwork. Nothing gets lost in the haze of Svartidauði’s sound, whatever you decide to focus on you can hear clearly or you can let it all wash over you and immerse yourself in the soundscape they create. I can’t tell you how many different guitar lines there are at any given time on this record, but they are layered perfectly & distinctly throughout each track. Onions, Ogres, and Svartidauði’s guitar lines are the definition of layered.
There is a lot more melody to be found on this album than there was on Flesh Cathedral and I found it to be very beneficial to the record. There are long instrumental sections that consume you as you listen to them. The intro/outro to Sol Ascending is absolutely hypnotizing, it feels like the guitar chords are raining down on you and cleansing your soul. The middle section in Burning Worlds of Excrement sounds like an interstellar dark carnival, that is kept bound in reality by the precise drumming of Magnus. The bass guitar finally walks off the beaten path during the bridge in The Howling Cynocephali, (coincidentally or not, my favorite song) and the band comes together in a brain melting conclusion that fades into the next track. Unfortunately, a few times on the album these instrumental sessions can be too much. Track 5, Reveries of Conflagration, has an intro that is too long and repetitive for my taste. The final track, Aureum Lux, suffered a bit in the middle from some bloated songwriting. Svartidauði was able to condense their long meandering style down, but it finally reared its head during the finale.
My biggest hang up on this record would be the vocals. The performance is not bad by any means, but I didn’t feel it matched the music to be perfectly honest.The vocalist delivers ferocious deep shouts that are borderline understandable. His voice doesn’t take away from the music or even put me off of the music, which is big for me as I’m a huge stickler for vocals. I just prefer a more animalistic shriek with black metal, in the vein of Darkthrone, the new immortal album, or even when Zeal & Ardor does their harsh vocals. The vocals on display here are still very powerful and on a few moments throughout the album really accentuate the intensity of the song. However, more often than not, I find myself trying to ignore them and focus on the instrumentation.
Will Revelations of the Red Sword bring forth our latest (and greatest?!) apocalypse? I really hope not, but it does have the epic and chaotic nature that one would expect from the end of the world. This record has really grown on me with every listen, there’s always something new to focus on. The drumming is remarkable throughout. Whether the mood calls for a breakneck chaotic pace or an intricate jazzy approach, the shoe fits. If you love the vocals you may have found your album of the year. I personally found a lot to love about this album, but it won’t be in my top ten. It will however be revisited when I need to get lost in a dark atmospheric soundscape.
1. Sol Ascending
2. Burning Worlds of Excrement
3. The Howling Cynocephali
4. Wolves of a Red Sun
5. Reveries of Conflagration
6. Aureum Lux
Total Playing Time: 48:29