The majority of the depressing black metal you hear today consists of a bedroom or basement recording, excess fuzz, 'distant' vocals through a volume knob and/or effects, and a whole lot of boring, slow riffs. Then you've got black metal which is actually depressing, relying not on a set sound but the actual structure of its riffs and placement of downward melodies. Svart is the latter, and this debut album offers a set of distinctly negative emotions.
Svart consists of one Draug, performing all but the session drums. He is a member of numerous other Swedish projects below the radar, including Livsnekad (which features the prolific Niklas Kvarforth of Shining, etc.). The sound here is something akin to Forgotten Tomb meets Shining, albeit something gentler on the soul than that combination might imply. The album journeys through a series of peaks and valleys which transport the listener to a grim landscape of sorrow.
"Livet Faller Samman" is the lengthiest of the compositions here, over 9 minutes, characterized by its churning rhythm guitars and simple placement of melodic notes which carve a haunting portrait of a slowly shifting landscape. The song picks up near the end with some blasting and then dissolves into a sparse doom. In all, I barely felt the track's length, a good sign. "In Endless Grief" is a shorter track that immediately caught my attention with a well written somber melody above some driving chords. There is a beautiful descent to this track which recalls early Amorphis or Katatonia. "Fördärvets Mästerverk" opens with a few moments of ambiance before a slow wall of despair crawls through. Though the shortest track here, "Då Glädjen Seglar Iväg" makes great use of samples and effects above its creepy pianos, the perfect soundtrack to breaking and entering a funeral home at night with a bottle of whiskey and a pistol with one bullet. The title track offers both glorious slower paced picking and a grooving black/doom subtext in the verse chords. "Medmänsklighet" is a longer instrumental with some more samples, the focus here is on the grieving tones of the acoustic guitar, and I enjoyed the simple swell of feedback at the very end.
Vanära, Vanmakt och Avsmak is a cut above most albums of its type in the production area, it all sounds great from the majority of its weeping chords to the few moments of distraction where the metal is turned off completely. Draug's vocals are hoarse and throaty, smothering the tracks with the weight of his hatred and grief. Most of the vocals are in Swedish. The album wraps up nicely, if you can call 43 minute of bleak suffering 'nice'. Highly recommended if you favor strong central melodies above a slow barrage of well chosen chords, or blackish/doom bands in particular (though the riff style here rarely crossing the line into doom territory). The non-metal tracks are equally enthralling. An excellent debut.
Verdict: Win [8.5/10] (until i collapse)