Saturday, 7 August 2010

Svart - Vanära, Vanmakt och Avsmak (2009) 80/100.

Svart’s regression is a strange one. This debut full-length, entitled ‘Vanära, Vanmakt och Avsmak’, represents a very strong start to life in the big-time but, as Svart began to release more material and become more expressive with that material, changing the way in which the band operates, there has been a noticeable decline in the standards of the material. This debut is by no means straight-up black metal. It definitely has a doomier feel to it than most of your average black metal bands. Akin to acts like Forgotten Tomb and Shining, Svart’s Draug likes to manipulate the genre by incorporating outside factors into it, thus making it a more emotive experience. The sophomore began to play with a multitude of ideas, such as long periods of ambiance and longer song lengths. However, despite the longer nature of the songs on ‘Förlorad’, there was a lack of depth to the material and much of the album left me wanting a little more in the way of explosive material, as seen here from the get-go.

This album definitely does what I was hoping ‘Förlorad’ would eventually grow into but never did. The material here likes to chop and change when it comes to tempos, too, but it doesn’t dwell too long on any one particular theme, unlike the songs which featured on ‘Förlorad’. When I’m faced with a near 40 minute epic, as ‘Förlorad III’ became, I dread every minute when a musician attempts to find a balance between ambiance and metal, as Draug attempted to do. More often than not musicians will neglect one in favour of the other without realising the adverse affects of doing so. Negating the metal in order to pursue the ambient themes is a ploy that only works when the musician is a genial craftsman with an eye for detail, which Draug is not. His skills are largely limited to simplistic, often repetitive black metal but if that’s what he’s good at, then stick to it. Forget pursuing ambient themes and go for the jugular with this blackened doom approach as it works well on this debut.

There is the occasional use of ambiance, which appears to have inspired much of the thought behind the sophomore, but it doesn’t become overwhelming and doesn’t stretch on for too long, as it tends to do on the sophomore, allowing it to dominate and become the central theme despite the fact that it isn’t very strong, or intensely moving. The ambiance shown on songs like ‘Fördärvets Mästerverk’ is short lived. It doesn’t even eclipse the two minute mark before the repetitious guitars are commanded to dominate by the vocals. Each song on this album, of which there are six, follows a similar pattern to the last, apart from this one song which develops the ambient side to the album more closely than the others. The sound to songs like ‘Fördärvets Mästerverk’ is very much in the vein of bands like fellow countrymen Shining, particularly their earlier works which involved disturbing vocal work and echoing, eerie soundscapes which heightened the atmospheric expression.

This is a feeling developed well throughout the album, particularly on songs like ‘Då Glädjen Seglar Iväg’ which uses an archaic sounding piano to enhance the eerie atmosphere akin to the eeriness found on albums like ‘The Eerie Cold’, by Shining. The ambiance on songs like the aforementioned doesn’t have much of a place to call home on this debut, but it doesn’t detract from it either, despite sounding somewhat out-of-place. The ambiance is cautious and weary on intruding upon the metallic backbone, something which cannot be said about the average sophomore. The guitars themselves are adequate at producing those ambient textures, so there is no need for ludicrously long periods of unmoving ambiance. The cleaner side to songs like the aforementioned is, again, more than sufficient. It adds a sense of variety, whilst intensifying the atmospherics. The final song even introduces some whispered vocals to add to that sense of variety and underlying melancholic vibe, one which is often shown through the central melodies to each song but never overdone. The creepy and eerie feel to the soundscapes always takes precedence, as shown on the final song, one which makes use of good effects and simplistic bass and guitar structures. This song should be considered a filler track though, or perhaps a prelude to the sophomore.

It doesn’t hamper, hinder or plague the album as it does on the sophomore which could have done with taking a leaf out of this albums book and shortening the lengths of its three songs, perhaps dividing them into six or so songs on equal length, as they are on this album. The title track for this album is a wonderful example of Svart’s early beginnings and Shining-esque sound. It consists of simple changes in tempo, dark atmospherics and sweet melodies. The song structures are very simplistic but they work wonderfully for the most part. The production is top-notch, too. It gives the album a clean enough feel to allow each part to become distinguishable, but remains creepy and dark, which is a necessity for this type of blackened doom metal. The self-titled song is amongst the best on the album at doing all of these things, particularly at remaining fresh with dynamic tempo changes and use of intoxicating melancholic melodies. This is a much better album than the sophomore and I, for one, would love to see a return to this type of sound by Draug, instead of what was fronted on the difficult sounding sophomore.

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