Ondfødt – Det Österbottniska Mörkret (Black Lion Records)

Friday, 9th June 2023
Rating: 8.5 / 10

Astute proficiency is a redeemable quality, especially within the crowded field that constitutes black metal. The many variants and varieties are a major quality that attract interest in the genre personally. However, there’s always room for candid, salt of the earth buzzsaw-laden darkness. If uninitiated, get acquainted with Ondfødt – a Finnish group who have been making plenty of noise, but without nearly the deserved level of fanfare. With members maintaining prominent places in other established bands such as melodic doom stalwarts Aeonian Sorrow, blackened death/crust act Dispyt, up-and-coming melodic death metallers Arctora (who released one of my best albums of 2022), and fellow black metal outfit Outlaw, there’s a variety of skills and pedigree at hand.

Turning the focus back to Ondfødt – they’ve been churning out blisteringly sharp black metal for a decade now, with an EP and three full-lengths, culminating with 2021’s booming Norden. Showcasing the band at their most focused, the follow up was going to have quite the act to follow. Suffice to say, fourth LP Det Österbottniska Mörkret equals, and in some ways surpasses, the band’s most accomplished works.

The style of black metal employed falls firmly into the second wave, though opting for a robust and meaty production, instead of utilizing the equivalent of a Fisher Price tape recorder like some early (and sadly, a few current) projects perplexingly go with. What results is a recording with a bombastic presence and scope, allowing the sharply written compositions to stand out as effectively as required. The evidence piles up quickly with thickly toned chainsaw riffs amongst stomping percussive groove via “Tvetalan,” while lightning-fast tremolo picking and raspily chilled snarls win the day on “Furstins tid” and “Tå do dör .”

Notable melodic tendencies and galloping rhythms arise on “Falskhejtins folk” and “Höstfruktan,” potentially allowing influences from some of the member’s other projects to creep in to add a level of vibrancy. A guest vocal spot courtesy of Mathias Lillmåns of Finntroll / …And Oceans fame adds a differing flavor on “Where Death Roams,” which is at times methodical and slightly less breakneck in pace, providing a respite of sorts from the more common faster material. Clocking in as the lengthiest track at a hair over 7 minutes, ambitious standout “Dödsrejson” traverses multiple tempo switches brought together by the versatile drum pounding of Tommi Tuhkala, then accentuated by the crunchy riffs and catchy leads provided by Owe Inborr and Dario Kåll.

For the majority of Det Österbottniska Mörkret, expect a relatively high fidelity and bountiful black metal attack that stays the course of that 90s blackened spirit. However, also anticipate bits of melodicism and multiple angles of attack, offering just enough diversification to not become stale. Wrap all of that into a package of unrelenting ferocity, and we have a band who is ascending up another rung or two on the tall ladder of black metal prominence. Hopefully justice is served and Ondfødt finally receives a bigger shine in the spotlight.

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