Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Vargavinter - Frostfödd (1996)

Back in the 90s there was a bit of an explosion in popularity around the AD&D campaigns I was running, and we somehow ended up with a few dozen players (some at my University, some in my hometown), and I bring this up because for some reason long lost to my memory, this particular black metal album became like a 'mascot' for our play group. Perhaps we were just being ironic because those of us who were also metalheads had become so inundated with the black metal genre that we found it a bit silly or cliched, but we were constantly lavishing praise upon this as some sort of gag. In the end, though, the joke was really on us, because Frostfödd is actually a solid, unsung Swedish black metal effort and one of the Invasion Records releases that I pull out most often when I'm in the mood.

It has all the staples: the purply-frost artwork mirrored photography, the glowing digital logo and title, and a sound which nobody would ever accuse of any sort of originality. There are times when I get this one mixed up with other Swedish -vinter bands, like Midvinter, or Vinterland, but in truth this is defined by a strictly straightforward, blasting black metal aesthetic which doesn't often attempt to leap out at you with severely catchy riffing, but will throw in a few surprises like the flute in the title track, or an oboe, or some spoken word pieces. When it comes to the majority metal ingredients, it's quite akin to a Marduk or Dark Funeral, blasting away with abandon, simple migrations of chords that get you fully in the mood for this old Swedish stuff, slathered with strong, impish rasping, intense drums that never need to let up, and a pretty swarthy low end with some audible bass, although it too often mimics the rhythm guitar patterns and doesn't quite stand out.

There can also be a folksy swagger as with the great initial riff on "Den lybska örn", but even that one cedes to the incorruptible blasting purity. However, where a Marduk might use such a constrained and aggressive style to convey imagery of warfare or Hell, you can subtly feel a more nature-oriented warmth coming through the chord choices on Frostfödd, and it simultaneously feels like the writing was not terribly original, but also a head of its time, since there are floods of notes here that feel like precursors to so much of the nature black metal or post-black metal of later years. Vargavinter had nothing on much more memorable, interesting bands like Dissection or Mörk Gryning in the same scene, but it's solidly produced, purist black metal that with just a little something extra for when I'm combing the shelves for a good frosty face-blasting...perhaps a poor choice of words.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10]

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