SVADILFARE – Fortapte Roetter
Svadilfare, in Norse mythology, is a stallion that dragged all of the stones in the wall that surrounds Asgard, and did so in (just upwards of) one year. The owner of Svadilfare had made a bet with the Asgardians that he could build the wall with the help of his horse in less than a year, for which he would receive the sun, the moon, and Freyja (pretty nifty prizes for building a wall). The Asgardians watch in horror as Svadilfare’s owner gets really close to finishing the wall, and Loki hatches a plan (shocker, right?) to disguise himself as a mare to lure Svadilfare away from its task, which succeeds in the very last second. Where am I going with this again? Oh right! Overly long mythological tangent aside, let’s just get on with it.
Svadilfare is also a black metal solo project from the windy and rainy coastal Norwegian city of Bergen, where sole member Ildsint Svartmunin (or Jøran Aasheim if you’re over for a cup of tea) has been crafting pitch-black audial assaults reminiscent of the legendary second wave ever since 2005, although the debut full-length Den Som Herjer would not be released until as “recently” as 2012. Two more albums released in 2013 and 2015 respectively brings us to the present day and Svartmunin’s fourth release, Fortapte Roetter.
Firstly, I will say that the album gets an extra 0.5 added to its score on account of the spectacular album art alone, which also happens to be the reason that the album caught my eye in the first place. Album opener Tenn Flammen På Ny wastes no time at all and throws a massive, brooding, mid-tempo riff in the vein of Darkthrone and Mork right in your face the second the album starts. The repetition of this riff throughout the song is hypnotic and anthemic rather than boring, and Svartmunin makes sure to break it up here and there with new riffs and ideas before it ever has time to lose momentum as the shrieks and drunken-Viking-cleans fight for room in the mix with the orders to “reignite the flame”. All in all just a really solid opener that sets the mood and gives the listener a groovy riff to nod one’s head along to. The brutality increases by a notch on the following track just after a bit of brief determined shouting in German. The whole song is unmistakably western Norwegian black metal from one end to the other gliding from an eerily familiar-sounding tremolo riff to a black ‘n’ roll section that would not at all sound out of place on Taake’s self-titled nor on Vreid’s I Krig, even the vocals bringing to mind the latter of the two at one point.
The following few tracks bring some chromatic riffing, insane vocals (especially on Brutalt Fortalt, the album’s most schizophrenic track), interesting and highly audible basslines à la Kvist (really just hammering down on the quintessential Norwegian-ness of the record with this one), unexpected shifts in direction and an unpredictable folky segment filled with acoustic guitars and impressively performed and layered clean-singing that’s just a tease of what is to be done even better in the next track, namely the title-track.
So then, two songs left, and we have now arrived at the title track, so far so good. It is pretty much right at the midpoint of this song that this album decides to go from good to great. Riff after riff, shivering cold tremolo-picked note after tremolo-picked note, with lines that would even make Doedsadmiral Hoest (It’s Norwegian with a capital N, do you get it yet?) proud, bringing about the exact feeling that has this patriotic soul coming back to Hordalands Doedskvad time after time, and that with melodicism to spare.
The album then ends on another sky-high note, closer Sjoelvmord, which straight from the get-go sounds like the opening of one of Avast’s songs from Mother Culture (The last Norwegian band I’ll namedrop, I promise) with its beautiful post-rockiness. The song sounds like as if Svartmunin is pouring his very soul into the entire track, making for a perfect finish. The somewhat dwindling Norwegian scene, once so highly regarded, needs to take a lot of notes from this record.
Svadilfare seems with this record to the exact opposite of its Norse stallion namesake, and knows to let the fuse burn slowly, rather than blowing the entire keg straight away. The record goes with a steady pace at first, creeping up on you, making everyone wonder if it will be able to “finish the wall” over the course of its run-time, just to blow it out of the f***ing park right at the finish line! I won’t be surprised if this ends up at a comfortable place on my year-end list. Tenn Flammen Paa Ny!
Highlights: Tenn Flammen Paa Ny, Hordalands Skimmer, Fortapte Roetter, Sjoelvmord