Tag Archives: Sweden

Underground Sounds: Hermóðr – The Howling Mountains

Label: Wolfspell Records
Band: Hermóðr
Origin: Sweden

The man behind Hermóðr is Rafn, a man who has been active in dozens of black metal projects in the past (like Mist, Deadlife and Vredesmod but an uncannily long list more). This one has been one of the longer running ones. Atmospheric black metal with a focus on nature, the north and the ancient times when the world was still younger and more close to us.

In the music of Hermóðr the listener finds something grand, the uncharted nature and the wide stretches of uninhabited ground. On the cover alone the cliffy coast beckons in a golden morning light, while calling the brave and bould to approach. I’m immediately pulled in by that imagery. There’s definitely a strain of folk music present here too.

The trickling intro promises mystery and adventure as well, but also the feeling of autumn in the air. The music never really transgresses into the tremolo and blast beat grounds of more traditional black metal and remains a more ambient metal-like soundtrack to the season. The slow progressions on songs like ‘Summer Ends’ are more inward. Introspective tunes that make the listener look back at himself. Thoughtful and with a haunting beauty the songs wander by, with an odd guitar riff spinning out or a bass line clinging to the inner ear for a moment.

Even on ‘The Mystic Forest’ the leaves are turning and icy vocals reach out to you. They’re buried deep in the mix, which I don’t always get. Lyrics should be audible atleast I feel, but it works here. The repetitive shimmering guitar parts lull the listener into a dreamy state, enjoying the natural state of the world around them. It reminds me a bit of Falkenbach, though maybe with that modern element of Drudkh. The slow, pastoral progressions, the laborious toiling of nature. The music falls in with the current movement that takes out the human part and shows nature in a pure, unspoiled way. A tradition harking back to the ‘Dunkelheit’ video by Burzum even.

A good example of really going in that direction is the song ‘Snow and Ice’, which really fades in a noisy snowstorm towards its end. The dirge-like sound just fades away due to a hazy cloud of noise. This album is one that is special. It certainly possesses its own darkness an depressive qualities, but these are just the shifting elements of nature. There’s  a simple grandeur to a track like ‘The Howling Mountains’.  There lies its beauty, in its uncomplicated appraisal for the natural.

Underground Sounds: Murg – Gudatall

Label: Nordvis
Band: Murg
Origin: Sweden

I’ve written about the previous Murg record on this page before, though not so dense when I look at it now. You can check that out here. The band from Bergslagen brings back a lot of classic black metal elements on their albums. The black and white, but also a blistering, northern sound. Don’t worry, they are not trapped in time in some sort of way.

Within a year from their debut ‘Varg & Björn’, the band is back with ‘Gudatall’. This album continues the quest of these unknown Swedes to bring back some tradition to the disparate black metal world. In an interview with 3rd Eye Mag, they explain their influences with classical names such as Dissection and Gorgoroth (but with addition of Tulus and Mgla). That should tell you plenty about what to expect from this record.

What is noticable instantly is that the band has found a bit more of an atmosphere in their sound. This creates a richer and fuller sound on this album, compared to the rather straight forward predecessor. A sound that has that full flavor of the bands they mention as their inspiration, not the thin ferocity of the original bands in the 2nd wave of black metal. A wall of dissonant, bleak guitar work with that sense of the great epic Dissection to it. It’s much less raw though, more controlled cascades of riff work rolling through the noisy fog of distortion. The vocals are harsh barks, with a commanding, rustic feel to them, which you hear in the more rural black metal bands like Windir.

In general, the sound of Murg has also put up some of that wavery, atmospheric sound here and there. A thin element of Winterfylleth -like nature worship perhaps, since that seems to be the stronger theme in their music. Still, there’s that Nidrosian black metal element, orthodox, harsh and mysterious, that makes Murg such a compelling act. They’re not too likely to join the more progressive stream of the genre. The frosty crips of the vocals, the grey haze of the rhythm section and that tremolo guitarplay are way to stuck in the frozen north. The blistering hail on ‘Mästarens resa i mörkret’, with the fierce vocals or the jagged, frantic ‘Midnattsmässan’ are a testament to that.

Murg is a fresh breeze in the black metal scene in the sense that they feel comfortable, as that old pair of shoes. But also great, because you can finally wear them again. This is obviously a great album.

Underground Sounds: Stilla – Skuggflock

Label: Nordvis
Band: Stilla
Origin: Sweden

What if you let go of the clichés that make up black metal and you explore a direction that is more organic, more close to heart and understandable. Ok, Stilla is still a black metal band of the atmospheric sort, but there’s something honest and straightforward to the band that makes them stand apart in a sea of rather unremarkable acts.

Previous offerings by Still are already highly appreciated thanks to their authentic flavor. This third release somehow brings it all together. The Swedish band creates something that is both engaging and densely atmospheric.

What I find particularly typical to the sound of Stilla is the assault. There is no passive beholder/listener, because the elements that make the songs constantly assault you and create tension. That puts them a bit on their own trajectory compared to the run of the mill atmospheric bands. This is immediately on the opener ‘Irrfärd’. It translates as ‘roving expedition’, but immediately spells danger. Threat of predators, threat of the elements and of the companions on this journey. The true assault starts on the next song with natural sounding blast beats. There’s no polished production but a very natural, full sound to the music. The vocals are intrusive, confrontational even at points. As if another is shouting in your face. All part of the journey.

In the meantime the guitars create archs that give a more atmospheric feeling. They sound rather decadent in combination with the gruff rhythms. Sometime Still even has a bit of a bold swagger to their sound. For example the song ‘I Tystnad Vilar Själen’, which reminds me a bit of the Satyricon groove of later records. Clean vocals are a peculiar thing on the album, but on this song they’re there. Somehow it gives the track a more earthy, punky aura. I think that’s pretty cool.

You also hear some clear Enslaved influences, with more progressive, stretched out soundscapes being presented. The wild, wind swept nature is evoked by the sound, the image of a rugged land with strong bones jutting from the earth in the shape or mountains and hills. In that sense there’s a hang towards the Cascadian black metal genre (or post black metal as some call it). The chanting, the synths, they all point towards a more subtle and natural sound. Still, every time the band pushes that a bit, they soon jump back to the more conventional sound.

Maybe on that front the song ‘Till den som skall komma’ is most typical for where Stilla is at now. The free darting guitars, the subtle tempo shift, but also the ragged, traditional black metal buzzsaw drone still there. The eerie organ, but also the barked, commanding vocals and cymbal-clashing blast beats. This is also where the charm of Stilla is, it lies in their duality and tension between the two faces of the band. That’s what makes this record so interesting, by showing both the harshness and the beauty in one form.

Sounds of the Underground #25

Thanks everyone for reading my ‘Sounds of the Underground’. It’s much appreciated, so here’s #25 with GravewormMurg, Witchsorrow and Fluisteraars.

Graveworm – Ascending Hate

Source: Nuclear Blast

Things tend to get back to you in time and bite you in the face it seems. Graveworm is one of the first extreme metal bands I got to hear and genuinely scared me at the time. Their album covers fascinated me, specially in the early days. Now, the Italian band is back with a death/symphonic/blackened explosion titled ‘Ascending Hate’, which to me sounds most like Cradle of Filth having a car crash with Therion.

The album is very well produced, which helps bring forward the symphonic and melodic elements in the music, which has soaring guitars and ambience enhancing keys playing throughout the songs. The harsh, barked vocals offer a contrast of brutality, together with the death metal barrage of guitars, but the bands doesn’t shy away from using their softer side when they can, like ‘To The Empire Of Madness’. There’s a beauty to this album, that unfortunately not the whole world will appreciate.

Murg – Varg & Björn

source: Bandcamp

Fuck yeah, black metal the way it used to be made, that’s what I want! This album brings back the fury of the original second wave in the hand of this Swedish company. Blistering guitar play and a dense, northern atmosphre make this a well worthy ride, full of frostbitten grimness. These are songs with blast beats the way you love and cherish them, in full furious swing and high on energy. There over you hear the tremolo guitar play, reaching up to this static buzzing sound.

It is rather hard to find info on the band, but there’s a good interview out there if you are interested. To the sound, though it can be murky and harrowing, there is also a certain beauty and melodic nature to the sound, hidden underneath tones that speak of decay and morbididty. Big, wavy guitar parts speak in no uncertain terms of a grandeur and power of nature, which is an influence clearly to be felt in the music of this mysterious duo. This record brings back the past, but a bit more in its grandeur and passion. A next album might come into being, so I’m rooting for that one.

Witchsorrow – No Light Only Fire

Brittish doom lords Witchsorrow have a new one, which looks rather good on first sight. The eye does not lie with this record, but it’s not just doom. Opening title track is a jagged, heavy stoner anthem with a break neck speed.  The vocals are restrained, as if the full power of the band is waiting to be unleashed as yet on this record, which happens on the thrudging ‘The Martyr’. The celebration of their 10 year anniversary is definitely one  this three piece does by showing the full scale of their skills.

The slow and heavy part is definitely in order with these guys, who manage to combine that element with a certain hardcore vibe. All the sound is crisp, clear and filled with a certain venom. This is however, without ever sounding like anything that isn’t doom. Witchsorrow is one of those bands that reinvigorate the genre with a catchy and open sound. It is not without reason that album immediately resonates with me and I sincerely recommend it to anyone who bears love for the genre as a testament to its enduring longevity.

Fluisteraars – Luwte

Source: Bandcamp

There’s this new wave of black metal in the Netherlands, which seems to rely strongly on a certain poetic aesthetic. I think of Laster and Terzij De Horde, but Fluisteraars also puts on a particular brand of sweeping majesty into the sound they paint. In their bio, the band speaks of windswept black metal and that sort of makes sense when you listen to the organic, wavering sound of the band. The Gelderland collective is definitely taking the listener on a journey with their specific sound.

Continuously surging guitar parts drag you along in a sonic river of grief, remorse and sadness, where now and then an echo of hope seems to be woven into the sound. The band manages to lift that sound up to etheral hights. Without any hesitation the sound then twists and turns around again, like  a u-turn into a shouty cacophony on ‘Angstvrees’. The track then resumes the stream. The record takes an epic approach to the black metal genre, which is truly captivating.