Svarttjern – Towards the Ultimate (Agonia Records)

Saturday, 23rd March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

If we were to have a checklist for “troo” Norwegian black metal, then Svarttjern would meet the criteria (and get a lot of checkmarks). From the band’s corpse-painted image, to the indecipherable logo, all the way to the pulsating, all-out attack they present on Towards the Ultimate (their second album), there’s not a lot Sverttjern does wrong. Of course, the BM peanut gallery will decry the album’s overly-clean production job, but who cares what they think?

Feeling the need for speed, the Norwegians waste little time in diving head-first into a barrage of scathing tremolo picking on the hostile “Breathing Soil.” While it would be easy to levy the Dark Funeral tag on these guys with such maneuvers, Svarrtjern are able to balance speed with tempo variances, as heard on “Hellig Jorg” and “Superior Growth.” Like any speed-happy black metal album, it is the slower songs that ultimately stand out, thus making the aforementioned pair the pick of the litter on this nine-song offering.

From there, the onus on brutality keeps Towards the Ultimate afloat. The traditional approach taken on “Unmasked Violation of Life,” and closing death march “For What Blooms Without Lust” both are a feeding frenzy for fiends of late-90’s black metal, a relative mish-mash of Belphegor and Blasphemer-era Mayhem. Naturally, once more than halfway through the album’s nine tracks, one gets a little too accustomed to the extreme metal hustle and flow of this thing, thus making the aforementioned “Hellig Jorg” and “Superior Growth” more valuable to the album’s core.

Once a virtual hotbed for anything even remotely related to black metal, Norway has had to fight to hold its ground over the last decade. An album likeTowards the Ultimate should help push the pendulum back in said country’s direction. Lord knows Svarttjern are doing everything they can to appease the old guard…

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