Friday, 23 April 2010

Svarti Loghin - Drifting Through The Void (2010) 95/100.

I had been advised by a series of fellow black metal fans , some of which I consider good friends, to pick this album up and having listened to a number of them describe it as the “album of the year”, I knew I would eventually surrender to the hype and indulge in some fine art with this eclectic sophomore. Although it’s far too early to start thinking about my personal favourites from the year 2010, I imagine that this divine piece of music will be in or around my top 10. Before listening to ‘Drifting Through The Void’, I had never been a big fan, or a fan at all, of the Swedish foursome, Svarti Loghin -- though, as I understand, only three of them are credited as performing on the album in the additional information (not sure why that is since Lipman provides the clean vocals and possibly some guitar work). I knew of them for several years previous to finally listening to them, but never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to find what I had found on this potentially ground breaking record. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, with the right amount of publicity, this record could go on to influence a new generation of black metal musicians into doing similar things and that involves incorporating genres of music we wouldn’t normally associate with metal, let alone black metal.

Though incorporating post-rock into black metal is nothing new, with this merger becoming a recent trend in the scene, fusing it with alternative rock, psychedelic rock from the 60’s and even country music, yes, that’s right, country music, is definitely an abnormal prospect. To some, this may even be somewhat intimidating. It’s relatively easy to fuse outside factors into black metal, but it’s incredibly difficult to do this well and, thankfully, given the talents behind the scenes, Svarti Loghin have produced a stellar affair somewhat akin to their debut, but the band have chosen to mostly tread new grounds by indulging in a spot of clean instrumentation, including clean vocals, a attribute featuring on a Svarti Loghin record for the very first time. As well as this, the sophomore also features guest appearances from the likes of depressive icon Kim Carlsson, the founder of idolised Swedish act Hypothermia. His vocal performance on the song ‘Odelagd Framtid’ is testament to the adaptability of Svarti Loghin because his tortured vocals fit superbly into the atmosphere of the band. I read in an interview that Kim provided vocals for the band on their first, and only, live performance.

According to the band themselves, the show was a hit and has convinced them to look at possibly playing live again in the future. Obviously, this shows us, the listener, that Kim is already accustomed to Svarti Loghin’s sound and is adept at providing a vocal base for the song he features on. He does well on the song, providing a certain amount of pain and sorrow in his performance that was probably missing from S.L’s performance on the debut. Kim, what with being apart of depressive black metal bands like Hypothermia and Life Is Pain, is a dab hand at tapping into a source of desolation which suit’s the more repetitive side of Svarti Loghin, which features generously on the song he performs on. The repetitive side is bombastic and likeable, despite its connotations to all things negative. The addition of Kim is a healthy choice and smart thinking on the part of the band. Not only will his reputation boost the appeal of the new album, but he also features to rapturous applause because, no matter what anybody says, he is a prominent figure in the sub-genre for a reason.

With songs like this sounding similar to the older style of the band we could be forgiven for expecting an affair without any source of originality when it comes to deviated and evolving from the debut, but we’d be gravely mistaken as this album does, in actual fact, feature splendid amounts of experimentation and innovation, particularly in the form of the clean vocals, provided stunningly by Lipman and not S.L. -- the bands regular vocalist. Lipman’s services provide ample opportunity for the reviewer to analyse the possible influences behind the band, but having read an interview with the musicians, they say Lipman’s clean vocals were inspired by Pearl Jam. I myself hear a touch of Dax Riggs (Agents of Oblivion and, most notably, Acid Bath guitarist and vocalist) in the vocals, though they’re less domineering and not as deep as his approach. They’re very mellow and suit the cleaner sections of instrumentation wonderfully. Songs like the self-titled one feature the clean vocals prominently and in a position of influence. The vocals, as well as the acoustics, provide the band with a new, fresh sound that definitely takes inspiration from an outside force, such as country and various forms of rock.

Again, the song writing shows that the band are both adventurous and daring in their occasional displays of avant-gardé experimentation. The bass, once again, is fantastic. Not only as a supporting instrument, but also as a leader within the soundscapes. The structures of the songs have been, and needed to be, rebuilt in order to accommodate the new features, such as clean vocals and acoustics (though these elements do also appear alongside the older characteristics, such as screamed vocals, distorted guitars and edgy percussion) and even an appearance by Lipman on the harmonica. Hopefully, this will give you, the reader, an indication of how much Svarti Loghin have transformed over the course of two years. Understandably, some of their previous sound has remained intact from the debut, though only in places, but the extra added delight of the quirky experimentation in the form of the clean vocals, acoustics and unusual appearance of the harmonica is like that a beer guzzler receives at 2-for-1 night at the latest hip-n-trendy bar. The Swedes have hit the nail on the head here and produced a stunning performance on one of 2010’s best efforts thus far.

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