Label: Carnal Records
Genre: Black Metal
Release Date: August 28th, 2020
FFO: Satyricon, Arckanum, Darkthrone
In the early 1990’s, a beast which is commonly referred to as the second wave of black metal emerged from the dark forests of Norway. Actually, it probably did not originate in the Norwegian forests, but more likely from garages, bedrooms, and basements, but the forest story sounds cooler so we will stick with that for now. Anyways, the sounds of this Norwegian style of black metal, with its high-pitched distorted guitars, fast drumming, and wretched vocals soon spread like fire over a gasoline-soaked wooden church and became ubiquitous in the black metal genre worldwide, even among non-Norwegian bands. Even decades later many bands continue to imitate the second wave sound. Among the countless bands who have adopted this approach are Svederna, living right next door in Sweden.
Härd, the third full-length studio album from Svederna kicks off with the track Den Arkaiska Rötan, which is packed with fast tremolo picking, hypnotic blackened rock’n’roll type riffs, tempo switch ups, and bloodchilling screams. The next track, Folkets Blod, sounds pretty similar, containing much of the same elements. Actually, with the exception of the seventh track, Sanndrömmar Om Evigt Lidande, which is a short, slow, calm, acoustic interlude, this formula is used throughout the album.
This approach ends up being a double edged sword. On one hand, the band is definitely focused on a particular sound and the album sounds cohesive throughout. They are obviously in their element here as well, as they seem to know how exactly to make the kind of music they want to make. The performances of the instruments and vocalist are strong and consistent throughout the record. The riffs are tight, the vocals wonderfully primal, and the individual song structures dynamic enough that they do not become tedious and repetitive. This style comes natural to Svederna and goddamn do they sound great playing it.
On the other hand however, as far as the individual songs are concerned, they mostly sound pretty interchangeable with each other. Sure, there are a few elements that may stand out on some tracks while listening to them, such as the savage Nattens Madrigal-esque opening riffs of Tempelhärd, the ominous march of drums that usher out Niðr, or the stripped, sparse breakdown in Skuld Och Vita Knogar, but for the most part the songs here, including the aforementioned ones, feel like masturbatory exercises for the band. Each of these tracks sounds pretty awesome on their own, but in context of the album it feels almost like hearing the same song over and over. Additionally, this style of rock and roll-influenced black metal is certainly not new, as we have seen bands like Satyricon, Darkthrone, and Arckanum (who Svederna reminds me the most of) employ similar methods to varying degrees. This is largely the same general sound and style that Svederna has played on their last two albums as well. As much as I enjoy the songs on Härd while listening to them, they really do not feel like they are pushing many boundaries for the genre or the band.
Overall I would say that Härd is a pretty good album. Svederna puts their all into their performances and it is obvious that they have not been skipping their rehearsals. The guitar riffs create a dark, cold, evil atmosphere that complement the ghastly screams like bacon and eggs. However, while this particular bacon and eggs dish is pretty delicious, there is not much that makes it special. While the individual tracks are solid, they also mostly feel synonymous with each other and could benefit from a greater diversity of ideas. The band is also not stepping out from the comfort zone they have established with their last two records, nor are they doing anything unique or new for black metal in general. If you, like myself, are a fan of blistering, bleak black metal in a second wave style, you will without a doubt enjoy the sonic landscape that Svederna paints on Härd. Just do not go in expecting anything trailblazing.
- Den Arkaiska Rötan
- Folkets Blod
- Skuld Och Vita Knogar
- Sanndrömmar Om Evigt Lidande
- Androm Till Skräck Och Varnagel
Total Playing Time: 49:00