Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dråpsnatt - I Denna Skog (2009)

By this time, black metal has been such a saturated medium that nearly every extremity has been explored. The genre has been cross pollinated with countless others, the trends risen and dispersed, and the general interest has leveled off to a plain of devout appreciators. Love or hate Swedish black metal, the country has produced a large range of artists and imitators, some who cop the style of Norwegian acts, others who strive towards something more unique. From the depressive Shining, to the strict and orthodox Ondskapt, the melodic black/death hybrid of Dissection, or the rigid old school blasting of Marduk, we've surely taken our fill of this nation's dark side, right? Perhaps not, as Dråpsnatt begs to differ with their rather fetching debut I Denna Skog.

Now, to be fair, the individual components of this two piece's sound are not entirely original of their own accord. The higher pitched, tortured rasping recalls Varg Vikernes, the folk elements, which are not necessarily 'folk' as they are just clean guitars and subtle keyboard layers dowsed in vocals or samples, have been offered countless times by other acts. The more aggressive riffing bounces between the raw speed licks of a Burzum, Darkthrone or Mayhem, but they also have some slower, thrashing material which sounds like a mutation of Hellhammer or Bathory. What made this album stand out to my memory is just how well the band is at fixing it all up together into one seamless, flowing tapestry with subliminal visual textures filtering the wide world of pastoral nature and the encroachment of civilization. They've got moments of sorrow, moments of longing, and moments of glory tantamount to all of our hidden emotions, and surprisingly, this is delivered through a fairly pristine mix.

Dråpsnatt are not intent on scarring your eardrums, merely your soul, and they do so with a consistent songwriting process that always evokes some manner of enjoyment. "I Denna Skog" itself is a slow, hammering black/thrash piece with simplistic riffs layered in Vinterfader's Varg like disgust, with some periods of tranquil, synthesizer calm. "Under Fullmånens Sken" opens like a Transilvanian Hunger outtake with added keyboard layer and a less harrowing production, with some dreary clean vocals ala Ulver forming in its latter moments. "Orostider" is almost exclusively this majestic, bleak atmospheric piece with excellent vocals, dreamy and catchy clean guitars textures, and "Fader Frost" teases the same before erupting into more of the sheer Northern might with heavy percussive samples hanging on the brink of perception. Most of the additional tracks are likewise noteworthy, such as the gentle "En Sista Vandring", the Yearning-like "Ett Sista Andetag", or the mead-hall charging hammer breaks and twangy processed clean guitars of "Av Jord Ar Du Kommen".

For a debut, this is impressively polished and diverse. No two songs sound quite exactly alike, though the segments can clearly be categorized into about 3-4 different cycles of mood: fast and standard black metal, slower bombastic Odinthrash, glorious melodic black/doom/folk, and cleaner sequences of pianos and clean guitars. Both of the members are also decent vocalists, from Vinterfader's aggression to Narstrand's tones reminiscent of I.C.S. Vortex or Trickster G. There's a psychedelic undertone to the album, and the band excel at subtleties expressed below the fore riffing. The use of samples as in "Orostider" is curious and welcome, and it appears the band have no qualms about carving anything that audibly fits into the landscape of forest and rock at the foundation of their being. I enjoyed this effort, and look forward to whatever the band can conjure in the future.

Verdict: Win [8.25/10]


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