With the renewed line-up the Danish Folk Metal band SVARTSOT released its second album, “Mulmets Viser”, in 2010. See the review here). This was not a bad album, but to me it wasn’t as good as the debut, “Ravnenes Saga” (2007, see the review here). The new one lacked in variation and could use more Folk and also less flute. Apparently the band learned from it all and grew towards each other in terms of influences and musical wishes. Album no. 3, “Maledictus Eris”, came out on the 29th July, which is indeed quite fast. Perhaps inspiration was streaming through the guys’ minds after the previous one and the gigs that followed.
The lyrical context for the new album takes us back to the year 1347 when, according to the press text, “a ship landed in the harbor of Messina, Sicily carrying an unwelcome cargo – the bodies of a plague-ridden crew. Over the next few years, the disease spread across most of an unprepared Europe, eliminating around a third of the population. The survivors could do nothing but watch their families and friends die a grim death, as the epidemic swept across the map following the trade routes. By 1350 the Black Death had reached Denmark.” The album basically tells the tale of the Black Death in Denmark, “beginning prior to its arrival and ending when the first, and most devastating, bout had passed. The songs tell the tales of the dying, the dead and the survivors, their fears, their sadness, their reactions, and their grief. The church blamed the disease on the sins of the masses, who, in turn, blamed the minorities, but all their reasoning was ill-founded and misguided. Why did the pious and the heretical die in equal measure? With no one left to blame, too few remaining to fulfil the traditional roles in society, no medieval treatment sufficing to cure, and no one spared the suffering, it was left to the conscience of each individual as to how to meet the end: in penance or in debauchery?”
“Maledictus Eris” was recorded, mixed, mastered, and produced by Lasse Lammert (known for his work with ALESTORM, among others) at his studio in Lübeck, Germany. He also added additional guitarwork. The cover artwork and layout was created by Hungarian artist Gyula Havancsák (GRAVE DIGGER, TÝR, STRATOVARIUS, …). The album kicks off with an intro (“Staden”), in which you can hear people enter a bar/pub and you obviously hear the sounds of glasses and mugs. “Gud Giv Det Varer Ved!” then follows instantly with direct, hymnic Folk Metal and growling vocals, which are present throughout the album. Leads are provided by the guitar and flute, which results in a nice combo. The flute is more prominent in the chorus, by the way. Overall the Danes have written a catchy tune, allowing for lots of headbanging. “Dødedansen” is next with its humpa Metal. Growls are again the leading vocals, but they take turns with screams, courtesy of Uffe Dons Petersen, I assume. He’s mentioned as guest vocalist, hence the assuming. But it won’t be the only time that I mix up Thor and Uffe, as you can read lower. Uffe is guitarist in the Melodic Death Metal band UNBELIEF and joined SVARTSOT this year as guitarist. The screamy stuff reminded me, in a way, of IN FLAMES and their “Whoracle” album (1997). The flute and guitar again offer leadwork, while over halfway there’s room for a solo and instrumental talk. The quality remains intact, so far so very good.
“Farsoten Kom” begins with a catchy tune and rhythmic/hymnic “hey ho, hey, heyho” kind of singing. Something that should surely be played live, for it’s perfect for that setting. This is a semi-acoustic track with even a bit of Blues. The mandolin is used for leads (very nice, by the way), while the growls continue to dominate in the vocal department. This is one hell of a song, without question! “Holdt Net Af En Tjørn” starts with drums and (Swedish) pipebags, which form a nice team. Metal comes in for the rhythm aspect, which makes the picture complete. Vocally you get growls and screams with the first being the dominant one. Musically it’s all about Metal, save for the acoustic guitar in the back. Melody is of high importance in the chorus, which sounds indeed very Folky! Another highlight on SVARTOT’s 3rd album. And so is “Den Forgængelige Tro”, which has the music fading, thus creating a sort of tension. Folky leads via the guitar, in a next instant joined by the flute (or whistle) and the drums after that. Slow at first, wavey somehow, but then it’s all about Metal. The melodic element was again reserved for the chorus. While this song features very nice drumwork, it’s rather simple as a whole, but should do great live.
The drums also set in “Om Jeg Lever Kveg”, after which the guitars come in with rhythm and leads. The whole is the typical Folk Metal we’ve come to expect from SVARTSOT. There’s a nice contrast between the guitars in the verses, sounding clean and distorted. The latter is of course the prevailing one and like before, the drums also stand out in this song. “Kunsten At Dø” follows with first the toms and acoustic guitar. This part alone is simply amazing! The production is also well done, as it helps to make it all sound amazing. Folky guitar leads are normal – we’re dealing with a Folk Metal band, after all. The verses are acoustic and have hoarse vocals (perhaps this is also (?) Uffe’s doing?), which offers something else instead of growls. And that change is good. The chorus is this time not about melody, but about the power of Metal. And with growls! Since drummer Danni Lyse Jelsgaard did such a good job in the beginning of the previous songs, he may also start “Den Nidske Gud”. Powerful verses follow soon after that, while the melody returns in the chorus, thanks to the mandoline. This is another simple song, but an effective one.
In favour of change, the band sets in “Spigrene” in an acoustic manner, but it doesn’t take long before the entire band takes off. And they keep it acoustic all the way, with clean vocals this time. I have no idea who sings here and perhaps it IS Thor… or Uffe. I think I’ll need the booklet to find out. Musically the flute/whistle helps with the melodic side of the song. SVARTSOT ends the trip to the past with a bang: “Og Landet Ligger Så Øde Hen”. Here they offer midtempo, though not really that fast, hymnic Power Folk. Pipebags, whistles, … the lot. Later on the drums increase in strength with the double bass. All killer no filler.
Like I said above, “Mulmets Viser” was not really attractive (for me), especially compared to “Ravnenes Saga”. I had some hopes that “Maledictus Eris” would be different than “Mulmets Viser”, but nothing more. And maybe it’s best not to expect things too much, then you won’t be disappointed if those expectations are not met. But it turned out that “Maledictus Eris”… may be SVARTSOT’s best album so far! I didn’t detect one bad song, not one moment that I wanted to skip a song or fast-forward. The production is very well done, the compositions are diverse enough to let Folk prevail at one time and to let Metal prevail the other time. You don’t get flutes everywhere or pipebags, the band kept it nicely balanced. Perhaps because the line-up is now better adjusted to each other. in any case, this is certainly one of the highlights this year and a must for any Folk Metal fan, whether this is your first SVARTSOT release or not.
- Gud Giv Det Varer Ved!
- Farsoten Kom
- Holdt Net Af En Tjørn
- Den Forgængelige Tro
- Om Jeg Lever Kveg
- Kunsten At Dø
- Den Nidske Gud
- Og Landet Ligger Så Øde He
Thor Bager – vocals
Cris J.S. Frederiksen – guitars, mandolin
Hans-Jørgen Martinus Hansen – whistles, Swedish pipebags
James Atkin – bass
Danni Lyse Jelsgaard – drums
Rating:More info at www.svartsot.dk