Saturday, March 26, 2011
By: Chris Davison
It is time for pagan/ black metal, folks! I'm a bit of a sucker for anything pagan metal, even though in general terms I prefer to avoid black metal on the grounds that I'm indifferent to tinny guitars and high pitched shrieks. So this latest offering from the highly regarded Norwegian crew Kampfar was always going to be an interesting listen for me. I know from my net lurkings that many a kind thing have been said about them in the recent past, and so I was actually looking forward to receiving Mare and giving it my full attention.
As it turns out, I can see why Kampfar get so much attention. Mare is quite a remarkable album, a melancholic and sinister record that manages at once to splice those minor key melodies that pagan metal with its folksy tinges has become known for, with the dark menace of black metal. Indeed, the core of Mare is set keenly in the black metal camp, though it is a very well produced and full sounding record that, nevertheless, manages to keep some of the hallmarks of the genre.
The guitars are absolutely haunting and hypnotic, particularly on the likes of the epic “Huldreland,” which also combines a deep, spectral spoken voice and the more typical shrieking of vocalist Dolk. The use of keyboards to produce extra atmosphere is also well done here, although from time to time the synthesized tone of the keys can be jarring – in particular, the introduction to “Trolldomspakt” sounds like the soundtrack to an Amiga game. This seems a bit of a petty complaint when compared the majesty and scope of the music, which carries the listener along on huge journeys of the mindscape. Kampfar also prove their metal credentials with the infectious galloping of “Volvevers,” a head-down semi-thrasher that alternates between those all-too familiar Bathory drum patterns and to the point scything guitar riffs.
Mare is a particularly impressive and coherent piece of art that evokes icy scenes in the perfectly judged production, which retains the chilly guitar tones while choosing not to abandon the deeper sounds of the bass and drums. Purists will no doubt complain that this isn't harsh or aggressive sounding enough, but that would be almost entirely missing the point. Mare is an album of shade and depth rather than the monotonous blast and hatred of their peers, and an altogether more mature release as a consequence. It's certainly the best black metal related release of the last couple of years; at least, to my neophyte ears.
Kampfar Official MySpace
Uncanny MCMXCI – MCMXCIV