Saturday, 24 July 2010

Dråpsnatt - Hymner Till Undergången (2010) 80/100.

Sweden’s relatively successfully twosome of Dråpsnatt are proving to be rather prolific with a third release already be planned for the near future. ‘Hymner Till Undergången’, the follow-up to their 2009 full-length debut ‘I Denna Skog’, is pretty much a continuation of what was laid down a year previous to this album. The themes of the album stick strictly to what was explored in the past, particularly in a musical sense. The album doesn’t venture far from the road which ‘I Denna Skog’ took but it never necessarily had to given how strong the material on the debut was. This effort isn’t ground-breaking, but it is consistent and concentrated as shown beautifully on songs like ‘Somna In’, a track which makes good use of the haunting piano and clean guitar effects. For fans of the debut who have not yet heard this album, try not to expect too much in the way of difference in style but, rest assured, the material is equally as impressive now as it was the year previous when ‘I Denna Skog’ was released from out-of-nowhere to take a small section of black metal fans by storm.

Since I discovered Dråpsnatt, I’ve been particularly impressed by the level of professionalism attached to their releases and even in the way the musicians conduct themselves. They appear to be level-headed and realistic about their expectations of how their music will be taken by nowadays black metal fans. There is an accessibility to their music due to the fact that they’re not too far removed from the original Scandinavian scene however, there is definitely an experimental side to the band which probably doesn’t receive as much attention as it should. On occasions, particularly during songs like the opening ‘En Ensam Sol Gar Ner’, the Swedish duo will venture into territories explored by bands like Arcturus during the early days.

Beginning with a generic sample of rain probably wasn’t the wisest move the band could have taken. The generic samples, applied to a vast amount of introductory songs these days, are past their sell by date and give a really stale feel to the album but don’t fret as these samples do not drag on for several minutes at a time like so many other artists choose to allow them to do. After a brief and unspectacular opening to the sophomore, things take an interesting turn with the integral use of keyboards. The keyboards have a very varied role on this album, as they occasionally did on the debut, too. The keyboards provide mid-era Arcturus like piano sections which adds a fair amount of flair to their often formulaic style. Dråpsnatt should be considered too varied to sound too much like any one band.

In interviews, despite reviewers’ claims that the Swedes sound somewhat like bands like Burzum and modern day post-rock meets black metal acts like Fen, they claim not to take too much influence from column A and state that, prior to the release of their debut, that they had not even heard any material from column B. In fact, the band have stated as a matter-of-fact that they try not to use any influences and make their music entirely their own, so whatever similarities that can be found on either the debut or the sophomore are merely coincidental, rather than an intended ploy on the part of the band. Songs like ‘Somna In’ give the album a really adventurous feel and the folksy touches to songs like ‘Ve Er’ are especially important in setting the album apart from the standards of black metal given how they use sweeping bass and synths to lead the song, though the rougher textures are usually never too far away from their introduction back into the mixed fray.

The cleaner sections match-up well with the use of keys and synths with the occasional use of clean vocals as well, though these don’t play too big a role in the make-up of the entire album with the rasping vocals being used the most out of all the styles that crop up on the sophomore. The vocals are exactly as they were on the debut, so not much has changed in that department. However, the vocals do feel slightly more energetic this time round than they did on the previous album, particularly on songs like ‘Arvssynd’, which has a ridiculously catchy structure to it thanks to the distorted guitars -- though each song does feature its fair share of layers, which the softer elements such as the bass and keys being accessible throughout, despite the use of distortion and extremely harsh vocal stylings.

Frostscald Records have done a great job with the album as the production sounds fantastic. Elements of the drumming can sound fairly distant, but the drumming isn’t considered a major force within the grand scheme of things anyway. The entire package for the album is well produced, including areas like the artwork, which is simply stunning. The band themselves said that they took a lot of care with the artwork and go on to explain how the lyrics “deal with the downfall of man”, something which can be visually seen in the barren landscapes of the artwork where man has not set foot. The beautiful detail of the desolate landscapes featured in the artwork mirrors the sound of the band well, with their archaic feeling, desolate and melancholic vibe. With the use of folksy tinges, explored through the keyboards and clean guitars on songs like ‘Tonerna De Klinga’, the natural feel to the album becomes even more vivid and real in the imagination. The band are very clever when it comes to song writing, managing to sound fresh and appealing, despite the fact that there is obviously nothing ground-breaking about their style. This is a fantastic follow-up to the debut, ‘I Denna Skog’.

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