Friday, 19 November 2010

Svartby - Kom i Min Kittel (2007) 60/100.

Svartby are slowly building a solid reputation for themselves. From out of the cold climate of Russia and into and cosy homes comes this rather extravagant folk metal band. Although the band only have four full members now, at the time of recording, they had five. Since the debut full-length, which is entitled ‘Kom i Min Kittel’ was released in 2007, the band have lost Hök, a former guitarist. Given how competitive the folk metal scene is, not just in Russia but in a global sense, it’s understandable that lesser known acts such as Svartby need to go through several transitional phases before they’ve got the right mix of experience and talent in their line-up. This album, ‘Kom i Min Kittel’ tends to prove exactly why it’s best to sit on great ideas for a while before releasing them to the public via a full-length record. This album isn’t by any means a disaster, but there certainly are elements of this album which could easily be re-worked or re-written. A lot of the good work in undone by sloppy song writing or overlooking the better elements on the album, like the keyboards, or acoustics and clean vocals. Not exactly a dire affair, but certainly forgettable.

I consider myself to be somewhat of a serious person. I don’t tend to listen to music which most people would consider to be “fun”. Nor am I one for upbeat music but there is something slightly enjoyable about this quirky mix of serious musicianship and out-of-this-world, unusual samples and circus like antics. ‘Solnedgång Över Träsk’, a brief interlude at the mid-way point of this album, is a fine example of what I’m referring to. This interlude is completely instrumental and, obviously, features no vocal displays, which generally tend to come in a typical rasped form. The instrumental begins with some amount of credibility. Floating, shimmering ambiance. Very nice. Then the weirdness sets in and this isn’t the first instance of weird play that Svartby put their listener through as the previous song features some very sparse samples of a croaking frog. I have no idea what the relevance of these samples is, or whether it has any relevance at all for that matter. I can’t imagine it does.

The samples feel too odd to be a positive influence. They don’t appear to make much sense throughout the album and are a constant source of confusion. The direction of the album then feels marred and obscured by the bands playful side. In a similar way to bands like Arcturus, though to a much lesser extent when it comes to accessibility, craft and skill, Svartby use these samples, as well as the unusual input of the keyboards to implement a very circus like feel to their music. Instead of being a serious, cynical album as the vocals would have you believe it is, the samples and crazy antics of the keyboards, who is generally a positive influence on the rest of the album, tend to tone down the levels of seriousness and up the ante in terms of the fun-loving, unpredictability of the album. Therein lies a problem with this. The album isn’t at all consistent though parts of it do have the ability to make me chuckle, though I’m not entirely convinced this is a good thing. ‘Flykt Över Sömnigt Land’, for instance, is a song which uses the charismatic performance of the keyboardist to good affect. The occasional acoustics are tender and touching, too, but far too infrequent to make much of an impact.

Whilst the guitars tend to be downplayed, the keyboards rise above the dampened production, an element which can cause havoc on occasions by muting the performance of the pivotal guitars, in a performance which leads to some acclaim and generates much of the plaudits. The production, as I mentioned, is very watered down. The bass is too low, the guitars aren’t sharp enough and the vocals can feel flat on occasions when the terrible trio are performing on the same stage simultaneously. The bouncy atmosphere on songs like ‘Skada Över Er!!’ is a welcomed addition but the pace and setting of the atmosphere and mood just isn’t right. Something feels very wrong with the pace of the music when the soundscapes are attempting to be bouncy and vibrant. The direction, once again, is jarred and knocked off kilter. The song writing is at fault here and is in desperate need of re-working in order to give the bass more of a prominent role and the guitars much more say in the outcome of the album. I also would have appreciated some quirky clean vocals on the album. The inclusion of clean vocals, akin to Garm’s with Arcturus, would have been a welcomed addition, though some form of clean vocals feature on songs like ‘Moder Av Alla Häxor’, though normally alongside the rasps. This is a decent debut. Not exactly inspiring but worth a spin or two on the odd occasion when you’ve got other things to be doing. This isn’t exactly an album which requires attention to detail.

No comments:

Post a Comment