Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Svart - Förlorad (2010) 66/100.

According to Draug his sole creation Svart are influenced only by his personal feelings. However, we cannot escape the fact that his full-length debut ‘Vanära, Vanmakt och Avsmak’ and, according to several other sources, his demo and EP’s are also in a similar vein to that of Forgotten Tomb mixed together with Shining. The production, atmosphere and even Draug’s vocal exploits on his well balanced debut felt like he had been directly influenced by Niklas Kvarforth, a musician with whom he has actually worked with in the past on Livnekad’s full-length debut ‘Den Sociala Vanförheten’. I get the impression that working with closely with Niklas throughout the process of recording Livnekad’s debut left a profound impression on this young and talented Swedish musician. His vocals, albeit not on this sophomore, were akin to that of Niklas’ with Shining during his early days with the band. As with Draug, Niklas’ voice evolved and began to take different shapes the older Shining became as a band. This sophomore, entitled ‘Förlorad’, is seemingly the beginning of an evolutionary stage for Draug and his solitary creation Svart.

The album itself contains a number of new features that weren’t present on the debut and given the positive impression the debut left me with, I wasn’t best pleased that Draug decided to alter the stylistic approach of the band. After several listens to this sometimes languid sophomore, the style is still very much similar to a mixture of a number of bands. From the doomier days of Katatonia, to darkest days of bands like Forgotten Tomb and Shining, Svart manages to combine a number of elements from those aforementioned bands, whose influence has been dramatic in recent years, and combined them in such a way that sounds perhaps more mature than it did on the debut, an album packed full of raw emotions. The first song to this mammoth sophomore, entitled ‘Förlorad I’ is exemplary of the changes that Svart have gone through during this evolutionary process. The track is almost fully instrumental and lasts just under fifteen minutes. At times, the languid and rather lazy feeling of the atmosphere can become quite dull due to the lack of passionate vocals we’re used to hearing and general change of tempo. The guitars remain doomier than ever with a somewhat clean sound to them.

There is obviously some partial distortion, but the deep, cutting vibes of the distortion from the first album are heavily neglected on this piece, one which is hampered by a smoother production. The slow build-up, deeper style of drumming and lack of vocals really makes this a difficult listen. The debut was a straight-hitting type of affair. It began on the front foot and maintained that tempo almost always throughout the album. This sophomore is more relaxed, perhaps more progressive and thoughtful. Draug has a clear destination even in his disappointing opening song to this, the lesser of the two albums. He seems to want to portray his feelings of depression and negativity towards life in a more controlled manner and he achieves this, but the material leaves me wanting -- wanting more of what was issued with the debut, to be precise. ‘Förlorad I’ definitely doesn’t opt to do what the debut did. It doesn’t start with the same type of aggression and lacks genuine power in terms of the emotions on display. Draug continues this into ‘Förlorad II’, though this particular song is a much more consistent offering and does include some vocals, though they’re not quite the same as they once were.

The opening layers of instrumentation remind me of Forgotten Tomb specifically and, in particular, their more recent offerings. The audible bass is a leader within the opening few minutes of this lengthy song. Soon the distortion from the guitars unfolds and the bass gives way to the harsher style of the song and the band. It doesn’t become an inaudible factor though, thankfully. It remains consistent, albeit rather repetitive, though this tends to go along with the rest of the instrumentation, which feels far less varied than the debut probably because of the song lengths and the time it takes for Draug to build-up towards his middle section, a place where most of the memorable riffing and general structures come into play. The atmosphere is obviously very doom orientated. The mixture of black and doom aspects isn’t as cohesive as it was on the debut, but leaves an impression nevertheless, albeit with less success. The time it takes Draug to build his final two songs can become aggravating after a while since he seems very reluctant to develop things as quickly as he did on the previous album.

The vocals are also a difficult aspect. Although given the doomier quality to this full-length, they do seem rather appropriate given time and understanding. They’re growled this time round, though there is much less conviction in them, though there are accessible and quite brilliant clean vocals applied sparsely on songs like ‘Förlorad II’. They also feel a lot less capable of displaying the same sorts of emotions as his Niklas-inspired screams on the debut. The slower sections within the final two songs are a nice touch, particularly on ‘Förlorad II’ where the bass becomes a factor once again, instead of repetitively playing as a back-up to the guitars. I do get the impression that the song lengths could have been cut down, even by half on the final two songs, and we’d still have the same intensity in emotions as we’re left with after the full amount of allocated time. The dubiously slow style takes a lot of time to appreciate, but it does eventually flow, but never with ease due to the uncomfortable song writing which allows the build-ups to take far too long to get into their groove. The cleaner production seems to highlight the problems more so than the dense production of the first album and clearly a return to the older style would probably be more profitable, but it isn’t easy to stop evolution when it takes hold. This is a good sophomore, but it definitely isn’t up to the standards of the debut.

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