Sunday, 21 March 2010

Lik - Besvärtade Strofer (2005) 80/100.

Lik and her beloved sister bands, including the likes of Armagedda and Sweden’s own Leviathan have clear distinctions between them but with the arrival of Lik’s sophomore, entitled ‘Besvärtade Strofer’, the divide between Lik and the most recent addition to the family, Lönndom, is becoming increasingly closer as Lik shift more towards blackened occult rock than ever before, almost eradicating the sense of metal in their music altogether, though not entirely. When one looks over the career these two musicians, A and Graav, the progression of their personalities towards a mellow musical style is easy to see. Beginning with the troubled aggressors Armagedda and Leviathan, this talented duo were considered highly respected black metal musicians, particularly when it came to Armagedda’s illustrious discography as Leviathan are somewhat of a forgotten gem these day -- perhaps something to do with the rise of Wrest’s Leviathan project? However, as age has matured the musicians, their stylistic approach has altered drastically. Even the image of the band has changed since the early days. Out goes the corpse paint and in has come straw hats, with colourful shirts.

For me, it is with this sophomore that the musicians were beginning to transform as people, something which is evident as the record progresses through the clearly lit path to a more relaxed destination. From distortion heavy black metal records like ‘The Final War Approaching’, with its obvious aggressive backbone, to the mild mannered ‘Besvärtade Strofer’ which takes a more relaxed approach to music. While I wouldn’t consider this record timid, I would consider it more so than the debut, ‘Må Ljuset Aldrig Nå Oss Mer’ which used a far more distorted production and more frequent harsh vocals than this psychedelic, entrancing collection of songs. As always, the record itself is quite short, but offers the listener enough time to breath in the intoxicating fumes of the crunchy guitar riffs and the wonderful bass, a section of the instrumentation which has always played a massive part in the concoction of Lik’s records, particularly this one with its far cleaner sound and more accessible song writing. Instrumentally and vocally, not too much has altered, but the record sounds far different simply because the duo opted for a cleaner sound, one which enhances the psychedelic, generally mid-paced songs.

With ‘Besvärtade Strofer’, the duo attempt to use the sparse elements of the debut more frequently, such as the clean, almost chanted vocal style which reminds me olden day rituals, or a dreary funeral procession of someone’s loved one’s. Graav’s vocals are more accessible when in their cleaner form and do add an extra sense of chemistry with the subtle elements of the instrumentation, such as the bass, an instrument which showcases superb juxtaposition by being both subtle, yet steadily commanding within the layered structures of the songs, shown particularly well during tracks like ‘Syner’. Songs like this show how versatile the bass can become as, in the introductory part of ‘Syner’, the bass floats behind the slow-paced guitar like a carefree dancing child but, as the song progresses, the basses influence becomes more and more pressing alongside the introduction of Graav’s usual hissed vocals, which displays a bite as powerful as a lion’s without bearing overbearing amidst the surreal and dreamlike atmospherics of songs such as ‘Syner’ and, in particular, the eerie ‘Viterskog’. One could argue the song writing is more focused, but the emotional scope of the record isn’t as penetrative.

With the entrancing presence of Graav’s chanted vocals, the atmospheres are enhanced tenfold and, thankfully, these vocals are used more frequently, as previously stated, slowly becoming a real force alongside the expansive and expressive bass which seemingly grows in confidence throughout. Perhaps more surprisingly than this Lik have ditched much of the desolation that surrounded the soundscapes on the debut and opted for a more catchy, rhythmic nature through the strange, eerie mist that rises from the mind altering effect of the drug-like atmospherics during songs like ‘Åkallelse’, in particular. Perhaps the debut was more immersive than this sophomore effort since the dense production wouldn’t allow my mind to wander the paths of the soundscapes and kept me more focused on the music itself. However, I don’t necessarily consider this a negative point in regards to the record as a whole because this highlights progression by the band which was taken one step further by the more laid back approach of Lönndom who offer a stripped down version of similar themes as expressed on this creative record. In conclusion, I would still consider the debut more worthy of praise since it is the true innovator, but this sophomore highlights the maturity of the band even if the impression isn’t as hard-hitting.

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