Well, it just ain’t every day you stumble upon a diabolic atmospheric black metal band from the Faroe Islands, is it? And probably for good reason, as aside from my knowledge of their indigenous and delicious, muscle-building, heart & keto-friendly salmon, I just concocted the assumption of a pretty barren, rocky, and cliff-heavy little landscape encapsulated by a cold sea. And probably maybe not really much else going on really at all.. and maybe I’m right (either way I apologize to my fellow Faroese Islanders please do not take this as disrespect, especially after this record) and maybe I’m not, but somewhere lurking under the volcanic rock and nutrient rich fish.. is Svartmalm. Perhaps the only thing heavier than the omega 3 profile in their salmon is, to my knowledge, the only black metal (or at the very least the most “famous”) band hailing from the Foroes. And wouldn’t ya know it, these motherfuckers came from all the way over there, from parts unknown and dared to make an atmospheric black metal juggernaut of a record that is not only among the best of the year, but some of the best I’ve ever heard, in any genre, ever.
Pretty big words there, huh? Well, yeah. And that doesn’t come lightly or undeserved, trust me. Now, since there is very little information or literature out there about Svartmalm, ill give you all I could find: 1. They use pseudonyms and also, to my knowledge, wear guises. 2. Their songs are entirely in Feroese, so I (and probably all of you) have no idea what they are saying. 3. Svartmalm literally and scientifically is a dark substance that forms from rocks due to lack of light, or something like that. And finally, 4. They fucking rock. Hard. Rock hard, get it, because, cliffs and rocks and islands and what. No seriously, straight from their Facebook bio:
Deep in the north Atlantic ocean there is a small group of islands. At the edge of these islands are cliffs overlooking the vast ocean. In the bedrock of these cliffs is a place unseen. In the absence of light, enveloped in darkness, there is a crystalline opaque substance which rises from the blackest core of the earth. This substance is called Svartmálm.
…. Now. Is that literally not the most heavy metal thing on the entire planet that you’ve ever heard? Thought so.
If the lack of understanding of the language and such of the music is differing you from listening to or liking this record honestly then, well, you’re an idiot. But seriously, please do not let that steer you away from this. Unless you are not a fan of extreme metal at all then you can fuck off and go on your merry way. The rest of us are in from a sonic blend of no holds barred chaotic black metal and melancholy sedative atmospheric doom that’ll drone on in your soul for daaaays. Im choosing to look at the lack of English language and knowledge of their homeland and subject matter of their material as a positive thing. It allowed me to completely strip myself of preconceived notion and my own listening ego and really just appreciate the MUSIC. Because ain’t that what its all about? Good music should make you feel. Not feel a certain way, just genuinely FEEL, in my humble opinion. And Svartalm’s self titled debut definitely supplies no shortage of that.
The opening track, Deytt Ljós pretty much let’s you know what you’re in for with the rest of this record.. total lurking atmospheric black metal. Eerie guitar channels. Musical arrangements that would both satisfy and confuse the devil himself. And this song is about as close to a traditional black metal sounding of a track as we are gonna get from them. This song just builds and builds and builds and just when you expect it to erupt Lucifer’s ash, it doesn’t. It rather eats Lucifer’s ash and uses it as fuel to add volume and expand the range of the track. They just keep maximizing their sound, if that makes sense. Its intensely transcendent, dark, and beautiful stuff.. all hiding behind traditional Darkthrone/Bathory inspired thrashing and cutting vocal growls that feel abruptly out of place yet strangely so perfectly fitting. The drum and bass section could turn human skeletons to dust with their intensity and morbid intentions. I literally can picture the grim and frigid waves of the Norwegian Sea crashing upon a throne of jagged rocks. Never has a record made me want to take a trip to such a foreign land ever in my life, and likely never will again. What we have on our hands here, is something special. The atmosphere seems to explode and paint itself all over the place, turning cold and dark to gold and wonderful in the matter of a flip of a switch or change of a chord, I hardly can keep up. Its simply beautiful & devastating. Don’t tempt me with a good time.
Which brings me to probably my favorite track on the entire record, Vík Frá Mær. Kicking things of with echoing and droning clean channeled guitar medley that had me picturing dark-cloaked soothsayers casting spells within a cloud of fog on a cliffside in the witching hours of the night. The dark and haunting atmosphere is struck by heavy metal thunder via some serious drum and cymbal action, but, interestingly enough, it does not shatter or even interrupt the atmosphere and headspace created by the intro, it bleeds into it. Providing a nice contrast but at the same time complimenting it quite organically. These dues can play music and they get it, there is absolutely no question about it. Each instrument serves a very specific and meaningful purpose and are placed accordingly and thoughtfully on every track at every second on every song, or at least they have me thinking so. Before this destroyer of a song turns into a true heavy metal chugging and the most thunderous of sounds ever committed to vinyl (or mp3 if you’re c00l); it sucks you in and plays you just like your an instrument conjured into their dark quest for musical domination. Then it gets heavy, catchy, destructive, and then reels you right back into its melancholy, bass-thick and gross, rattling, droning, bad attitude. This song checks all boxes for me. Its so great in every way, not sugar coating that one, for once. Spreading like the plague and infecting the listener seamlessly from one piece to the next, this record refuses to give you any breathing room, demanding your undivided attention from start to finish. In our world of short attention spans, free and disposable music, how rare is that? Like I like my sushi, boys and ghouls. Or steak for that matter, rare as all fuck. Bleeding and squirming. Delicious, dead, and nutritious. Ok, I have finished.
As if it is even possible, the next track, Reiðmenn, drags you further into the unknown darkened depths of the caverns of the Faroes. Sounding like it was conjured by the serpents dwelling beneath the sea it was written above, this pushes into the more traditional; fast and menacing (with respects to the depressive and meditative underlying theme of the entire record), black metal. This screeching and clawing tune demands to be heard then fades into the ever black obscurity featuring minor chords and droning synth heaviness. Another track that is absolutely nothing short of amazing, and I still haven’t understood a single word that was said… but ill be damned if I didn’t feel it. And in that way, know exactly what they mean to say. At least, I can imagine.. which is the essence of art, my friends.
The closing unholy trilogy can only be vaguely but complimentary described as a perfect ending to a perfect record. The dreary instrumentals paint a grim landscape in your mind, and they do everything from break it apart with sheer heavy metal force, put it back together with sonic fusion, and transporting it to a new dark alternate universe on cold waves of thick bass and synth. Satanic growls and eerie sounds pollute the air as the crushing music rises and falls, just dragging you along like a fly on a spiders web. Galloping melodies interchange with organ filled funeral hymns; and guitar solos pushing sonic boundaries accompany percussion from the waves of the Norwegian Sea itself. Its haunting, beautiful, groovy, and brilliant. As much good as I had to say about this record its really hard for me to say anything negative, which is quite rare, actually. I can say its probably the only record (metal record especially) that renders such a vivd representation of their country’s landscape, that is actually makes me want to visit it, regardless of its appeal. True art injects a feeling and inspires you. This is that. Go figure.
Rock Rating: 5/5
Gym Rating: 3.5/5
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