Höstblod – Dikter om döden (Self-Released)

Friday, 25th September 2020
Rating: 9.5/10

A landscape drawn in black and white featuring a becalmed lake and a host of trees either evergreen or unburdened with the signs of summer life. Unsurprisingly there is black metal within – equally unsurprising is the folk pairings contained within. As black metal is no stranger to folk (and vice versa) the surprise within Dikter om döden is the downright exquisite beauty in the experience. This is outstanding isolation music.

Gorgeous acoustic instrumentation opens “Allt vi bär på” (Swedish is all there is!), instrumentation that gradually expands in post-rock like form, emotionally charged waves crashing against the rocks. Indeed, across the near-11 minute run time of this track there is a inescapable sense of return, of seeing places you’ve seen before and each new visit carrying with it a greater sense of despondency. There is a quiet that ends the opener and bridges effortlessly into the wholly acoustic “Det djupa havet”, a quiet that belies a sense of endless longing.

While that may carry as a saccharine bit of exposition on the opening of Dikter om döden, it is written to be intentionally hyperbolic – this is an outstanding listen. As noted, the marriage of folk with black metal is nothing new – within every national (and regional) scene there are multiple bands that carry the mantle of the pairing. To pair “quiet” and “majesty” really drives at dissonance – the two in my mind work against one another but are exactly what is on display across this album. While the black metal elements trend on the atmospheric end of the continuum, this release is not drowned out under synths or endless repetition. Indeed, perhaps almost like Ukraine’s White Ward, there is a screamo/alternative fire burning beneath the harsher passages. Whatever the mix, it is a potently unique voice.

Post-flavor is unsurprisingly prevalent, with centerpiece “Dödens vals” being an exercise in tension and release. A tension here and elsewhere bolstered by how enormous everything sounds, with the drums and bass alike enough to fill rooms (sound-wise, this album parallels With The End In Mind’s Tides of Fire from earlier in the summer – huge!). Pleasantly sequenced and deceptively lean, the 40 minutes that constitute Dikter om döden are gone before you know it.

Somewhere out in the world rests a lake and increasingly autumnal foliage as we work our way through the seasonal transition. Whether seeking time away from the mundanity of the day-to-day or seeking a lengthy hike, the resplendent beauty that courses through closer “En svag viskning”, with its ebb of melancholy and pursuit, will likely provide all sought ends. My surprise love of 2020.

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