Sunday, 2 February 2014

Review; Kampfar - Djevelmakt

Track Listing:

1. Myldur
2. Kujon
3. Blod, Eder og Galle
4. Swarm Norvegicus
5. Fortapelse
6. De Dødes Fane
7. Svarte Sjelers Salme
8. Our Hounds, Our Legion

Kampfar is not a band that I had listened to prior to this album, I must admit. However, 'Djevelmakt', the band's sixth full-length record since their birth in 1994, has intrigued me. Folk Metal (or Black Metal with Folk elements in it, for those that want to be picky) is a subgenre of Metal music that has often repelled me due to the fact that I've heard a lot of it that goes suddenly from an all-out Black Metal sound to a weird fiddle and flute whimsy that quite frankly sounds ridiculous no matter what context you put it into.

'Djevelmakt' manages to bring Black Metal and Folk music together in a hypnotising blend of chaos and subtle beauty. 'Myldur' opens with a dark, haunting piano introduction before bringing forth a chord-based riff that has a lot of stomp and impact, that avoids the typical Black Metal formula where blast-beats make up eighty percent of a song. Blasts come later, but don't outstay their welcome. Frontman Dolk's vocals manage to screech like the best of them, but also have a more melodic delivery heard in the chorus of this first song. It's not exactly clean vocals, more half-and-half. The folk tinges are in there too, with some chilling flute playing woven into the music. It's tasteful, subtle and helps give the song, and the band, a stamp of identity.

'Kujon' comes in more straightforward, with double-bass drums prominent throughout. The guitar lines do have an almost Folky sound to them, though there are some arpeggios in the middle that are almost lost in the distortion (a small point, but noticeable to my ears). 'Blod, Eder og Galle' starts ominously, almost classically, with strings playing a very dark tune that soon merges perfectly into the chaos of Kampfar's blackened attack. Again, the band show they can slow the tempo and not suffer for it, but it is largely the atmosphere created by the strings that carry the strength of this song.

'Swarm Norvegicus'  has another dark and slow build with a short, throaty spoken word section and a catchy bass line. There's quite a few times so far in the album that the music doesn't boast originality, but the passionate belief evident in the delivery of these concise, well constructed songs is enough to excuse those moments. It's perhaps in the style of the composition that the album does stand out from the crowded Black Metal scene. 'Fortapelse' continues the frantic charge meets Folk interludes, the piano haunting the chorus adds the extra dimension to this song, taking it from possibly bland to flavourful with simple ease.

'De Dødes Fane' is the kind of song that is bound to make all the grim, bleak, corpsepaint-ridden Black Metal diehards hold up their claw and crabwalk in suppressed glee, with Dolk's emotive cries bringing said bleakness to the fold. The flute again makes a welcome appearance alongside a simple yet effective riff that would have all but only the most staunch naysayer headbanging fervently. All those who talk about listening to Black Metal and 'being transported to the barren, frostbitten landscapes of Norway' will love 'Svarte Sjelers Salme', as it really does bring to mind those cliché images of both the land and its mythology. The whole album does, in places.

As 'Our Hounds, Our Legion' closes the album in English as opposed to the rest of the album where the lyrics are in the band's native tongue, the fury and belief of the band does not let up for a moment. It is this trait that gives Kampfar such respectability; twenty years into their career and this band still shows such passion for their art, and it is a very noteworthy body of art even without taking this into account.

This is an album that I can recommend highly to any fan of Extreme Metal, to any Metal fan wanting something more genuine, and that gives more than the simple, instantaneous-yet-cheap thrills that many bands rely on. Kampfar have delivered an album that should bring them a little further into the light of recognition within the scene, and it would be very well deserved, and overdue recognition. This may be the first album of theirs I have listened to, as it may be for others, but it has tempted me to check out their previous releases, and that can only be a sign of a great record.

Rating: 8/10

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