Murg – Strävan (Nordvis Produktion)Monday, 13th May 2019
Always a pleasure when something effortlessly conjures an experience you can lose yourself in. Every genre (metal or otherwise) has those experiences on occasion and for you, dear listener, Strävan is such a listen. It is a place that is very much a product of now but with a keen sense of then, wherever that happens to fall over the last two decades of black metal. The identity-shrouding black garbs the band dresses themselves in allows a keen identity instead to speak through the music alone.
No alarming surprises come from Strävan, no forays into the world of post-, no flirtations with industrial, no dives into folk or atmospherics: it’s incredibly tasteful. Though pacing varies, the band often finds comfort in a grandiose middle place, finding it time and time again throughout the title track “Strävan”, “Renhet”, and “Tre Stenar”. These slower tracks given the album’s production an opportunity to shine: drums fill the room, the guitars shimmer (and not in a way that brings disservice), and the bass, is thick. The vocals, while a familiar rasp, are decidedly a familiar rasp delivered with a very Swedish flavor.
With “Altaret” and “Berget” the pace goes hard in the opposite direction, the melody picks up, and suddenly Strävan becomes a frost-bitten 90’s fever dream. “Korpen” and closer “Stjärnan” is a marriage of these differing tracks, either fluidly moving between the two (the former) or gradually deescalating from to the other (the latter). “Stjärnan”, particularly in its closing half is as though a great climb giving way to some vast and terrible vista, a vision visceral and wordless.
So what is Sträven? It’s a classically lean release at eight tracks (with no wasted intro) and 40 minutes, fitting comfortably on a single (and likely black) LP. It’s the call of things unknown in places unnamed, no evil in a moral sense, but something unknowable, something decidedly there but difficult to map in human terms. And despite that pompous description, it’s also a solid, traditionally-minded black metal release that will disappoint no one inclined to embrace it.