“One of the most hateful and gloomy records Norway has spawned,” “a twisted remedy for joy and must have for black metal enthusiasts.” Seems the promo gods are oozing praise like a big fat weepy festering boil for this little super-group of ex-Gorgoroth, 1349, Koldbrann, Fortíd and Nidingr members! Way back when, I discovered Den Saakaldte was headed up by none other than Kvarforth of Swedish Shining fame. It prompted me to pick up Ol, Morke Og Depresjon and All Hail Pessimism and while not being Kvarforth’s most enthralling work, the momentary jazzy and classical interludes and Kvarforth’s wrenching gurgles were enough to keep me engaged. Fast forward five years on and if I’m to believe everything I’ve read, Den Saakaldte have stepped out of the hulking, depressive shadows of the Swedes, they’ve honed their sound considerably and they’re sporting a new ghoul up front. Let’s see if Kapittel II: Faen i Helvete can deliver the same sting as my trusty cat o’ nine tails!
Modernized balls-to-the-wall, fuzzed out black metal reminiscent of the style of Gorgoroth and old-Darkthrone aptly describes opening track “Din Siste Dag.” Einar “Eldur” Thorber (Curse, Fortíd, Potentiam and ex-Thule) has taken over vocal duties from Kvarforth and though he tries to kick out the same theatrics as his predecessor, he falls short with the mucky mix hiding the range and depth of his grunts and animalistic gurgles and only a few of his strangled cleans escape the trap from time to time. After a brief moment of what almost sounds like you’re cornered on the side of a mountain with a flock of sheep, “Forbanna Idioter” goes on to deliver much of what was delivered earlier. It feels as though the wolves are nipping at your heels for a few brief moments early on in the track, but the dreaded desperation is brief and quickly forgotten as the track gallops on frantically and without further distinction until the 7-minute mark.
Creepy opening and balls-to-the-wall is Den Saakaldte‘s recipe for destruction. Tybald’s (Curse, Fortíd, ex-13 Candles, ex-Pantheon I and ex-Sarkom) blasting gets the job done, but other than that, nothing whacks you up-side the head as being specifically technical, stand-out or interesting with regards his fills – he’s present and I suppose that counts for something. Sykelig (ex-a bunch of bands) and Tjalve (Pantheon I and ex-1349) riff up a storm that’s mostly forgettable and been done by countless bands before Den Saakaldte. Early on in “Du Selvproklamerte Misjonaer,” “Som Et Arr På Sjelen” and around the mid point of “Endelost Ode”), Sykelig and Tjalve dig up Utter Hell and thrash-tasticness that smacks of Infernö-worship [Damn, I love that album so much. – Steel Druhm]. The thrashy, dippy mile-a-minute contrast makes the doom-laden interludes and Thorber’s torment seem that much darker and less easy to swallow, more of this irrationality would have made the monotony far less smarting.
Discounting Den Saakaldte‘s slew of splits and EPs (which I’ve not heard), the production on their earlier releases focussed more on the sharpness of Kvarforth’s vocals and on the various musical highlights scattered here and there. This has not been carried through into Faen i Helvete, with Strand Studio (Chrome Division, The Wretched End, Susperia and In Vain) responsible for the mix, engineering and mastering. Bringing Tybald’s horse slurr out front would have done good to break through the murk and have the tracks hit harder with the old grey matter.
As with Ol, Morke Og Depresjon and All Hail Pessimism there are a few good tracks here that will prompt me to spin the album again as background noise – “Du Selvproklamerte misjonaer,” “Endelost Ode” and “Som Et Arr På Sjelen” immediately coming to mind. Despite Faen i Helvete being considerably shorter than All Hail Pessimism, it feels overly long and draggy once you’re past the good stuff. Let’s be honest here folks, I’ve certainly heard more gloomy releases out of Norway and for the most part this is just faceless, been-done-before black metal, and that’s hardly a must have.