Kampfar_ProfanThere really is nothing like putting together an annual top-ten list. Critiquing, organizing, selecting, re-selecting, and rearranging right up to the deadline, like creating a haphazard grocery list as you suffer through a 48-hour fasting. As is the case with many of my colleagues, I pretty much had my list nailed down at the beginning of November with everything listed in an order I was 99% confident with. Well, that was until Kampfar‘s Profan hit my inbox a week ago. Not that it’s a band thing that Kampfar (much like Mors Principium Est before it) upset my 2015 order, but they single-handedly fucked everything up. So for those of you who think you’ve heard all there is to hear this year, I offer you another for your listening pleasure.

Ever since the departure of Thomas (Kampfar‘s longtime guitarist/bassist) in 2010, the Kampfar kamp has seen some separation in their fanbase. Personally, I’m a Thomas-era fan of the band. Albums like Mellom skogkledde aaser and Kvass still stand as a couple of my favorites for the entire genre. However, as the band honed in on their recent “accessible” black metal period (beginning with 2011’s Mare), theres been a steady increase in impact and staying power. This resulted in albums that retain that Kampfar sound and emotion, but deliver it with a fresh new twist. Last year’s Djevelmakt expanded upon the sound of Mare, but Profan showed up to solidify it. Profan represents another slab of solid black metal from a band that’s not only one of the most consistent, but also one of the more progressively successful.

Opener “Gloria Ablaze” and closer “Tornekratt” are not only the best tracks on the album, but proof of the aforementioned honing. Kicking off with powerful, blackened riffs and a holistic sense of emotion and atmosphere, they build to deep-breathing, orgasmic relief when their respective “choruses” finally arrive. The aggressive, emotion-stricken “cleans” that lurch and belt forth are so good that latter may have trumped all contenders for Song o’ the Year. It’s the kind of power and emotion I long for and when it’s achieved almost as perfectly as on “Tornekratt,” I can’t help but be swept up and away by it. It’s the equivalent to the crippling emotions on last year’s Behemoth outing. I can’t fully explain or comprehend the feelings I get from these songs but they are real, and to resist them is not only stupid, but futile.

Kampfar_2015

Thankfully, these two songs aren’t the only good ones. Each of the seven links on Profan stands with their own individuality. However, when chained together, Profan weaves a concise theme from beginning to end. Within that chain you’ll find a straight-forward black assault like “Icons,” the epic seven-and-a-half minute “Skavank,” and the slow, creeping “Daimon.” While “Icons” pairs with “Profanum” as the “weaker” songs on the album, its simple approach helps to provide variety in this mix of highly melodic numbers. One such number would be “Skavank;” providing the kind of melody and emotion that makes Profan an auditory weapon. Chugging along as only a crushing black metal song can, it takes a turn to create an ending itching with desperation and the ripping-from-one’s-skin moments found in Profan‘s alpha and omega. “Daimon” drops a mind-fucking ditty in the middle of the album that includes a didgeridoo, piano, and a slow-churning riffage complete with low-end vocals reminiscent of The Vision Bleak. As with most of Kampfar‘s catalog, Profan is not in any danger of settling into a groove or boring the listener.

Profan spends its entire forty-minute length building up to something. That “something” finally bursts from the soothing, yet unsettling synths in the closing minute of “Pole in the Ground.” Profan is a great album and a natural progression from Djevelmakt. The production is rich and clean, though it suffers from high compression (which is not surprising for a Jonas Kjellgren mix). And to wrap it all up, you get that stunning artwork that’s worthy of not only a vinyl print, but a hook on your wall. So, for all you list-makers out there, be sure to free up a spot. Just in case.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Indie Recordings
Websites: www.kampfar.com | facebook.com/Kampfar
Releases Worldwide: November 13th, 2015

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  • tomasjacobi

    40 minutes. Ha! That’s not even 1/3 StS…

    • André Snyde Lopes

      That just means this is automatically 3 times better.

    • Pimpolho

      Let’s start measuring albums by StSs!

  • Philip Pledger

    I’m a pretty recent convert to black metal (one of the many things I owe this blog), and I am absolutely LOVING the embedded track and doubt that I will be able to get that piano out of my head for at least a week. You mentioned Mellom skogkledde aaser and Kvass as being some of your favorites in the genre; care to share some of your other favorites to someone looking to expand their music library and musical horizons?

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Oh man, that is a huge list of stuff. Are you looking for some of the old-school, raw, classic albums? In my opinion, you really can’t go wrong with older Darkthrone (their newer releases are great as well but quite different), anything Gorgoroth, Thorns, Horna (which was recently reviewed but their older stuff is better), Tsjuder, Immortal, etc, etc, etc. It’s a big genre and you could spend a lot of time passing through the raw, the melodic, and even the doomier stuff.

      • AndySynn

        Step aside son… I’ll handle this one!

        (Ok, just to be clear, not being serious there, just lampooning the persona of certain self-proclaimed “Black Metal elitists” I’ve had the misfortune of encountering over the years).

        Anyway, in terms of bands/albums that I think pair well with a nice serving of Kampfar I would recommend:

        Iskald – The Sun I Carried Alone
        Enslaved – Ruun
        Antestor – Omen
        The Infernal Sea – The Great Mortality

        • Pimpolho

          Why, thank you! There are a few bands there that i haven’t listened yet, but that shall be fixed.

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          Ah, excellent Kampfar pairings. Kampfar is starting to have some of that Enslaved progressiveness.

          • AndySynn

            I think between us we could permanently derail this comment thread into an endless back-and-forth of:

            “Oh, you like them? Well how about these guys?”

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Oh, absolutely. It would go from favorite bands to albums to songs. Then, inevitably, it would progress to, “whatever dude! This song is way better than that song!” And then Madam X would show up.

          • That’d be a hell of a tour.

        • IamRipper

          You know all that stuff is too new. We all know that if your band didn’t form by 1992, then it’s not true Black Metal. I would recommend Frost from Enslaved. That way you can hear what they should still sound like. Then you should try Antichrist, or maybe even Under The Sign of Hell from Gorgoroth. Remember, Norway is best, but if you have to, you can go Swedish.

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            UtSoH never, ever gets old. Amazing record.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Under the Sign of Hell and Destroyer…. Mmmmmm

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            I should like Destroyer more than I do. Good record, but mid-tier Gorgoroth IMO.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            It definitely is. Destroyer was my first Gorgoroth purchase so I have a soft spot for it. Love the title track.

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            The title track is awesome, best song on the record. First Gorgoroth purchase for me was AMSG, so that one holds a special place in the collection. Not sure how that one holds up on the trve scale though…

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            I personally love that fucking album. I remember being stoked when that thing finally came out.

            You want to talk about trveness… I very much love Incipit Satan as well…

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            AMSG is my top Gaahl-goroth record, probably top 3 for the band overall. As for Incipit Satan, I have that one on LP, so I’ll toss my trveness onto the funeral pyre with you there.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Yeah ASMG is the ultimate Gaahl/King album. I have Incipit on vinyl too…

          • IamRipper

            I’m a big Pentagram and Antichrist fan as well. I’m not really into the Gaahl era at all, other than the Black Mass DVD. The new one is also a great album.

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            Instinctus Bestialis still gets a lot of spins from me, great record indeed.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Sammath – Godless Arrogance

      Drowning the Light – From the Abyss
      Kjeld – Skym
      Inquisition – Obscure Verses for the Multiverse

      All are from the last few years, have great riffs and melodies, but aren’t really like Kampfar because Mr. Synn absolutely nailed great picks for that already.

      • AndySynn

        That Drowning The Light album’s particularly great.

      • Tom Busler

        Thank goodness someone mentioned Inquisition. They can do no wrong. Best approach to riffing in the whole genre. You could also check out the work of the gentleman in the picture with me in my avatar: Proscriptor McGovern’s ABSU. Some would classify as being more thrash than black, but some people are also wrong.

        • Name’s Dalton

          The Inquisition is here to stay .

  • Pimpolho

    It’s a really great album, i was eager to see it’s review. And, as always, Dr did a phenomenal job at reviewing it.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Thanks very much. I appreciate it. It’s a great album.

  • Thatguy

    Thanks, Doc. Great review and a great album.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Thanks much!

  • The compression on this record is ugh.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Yes… Honestly, I would have had a tough time not giving it a 4.5 if the dynamics had been better. Than would have been amazing.

      • Now the question remains (as always): Did it get a less limited vinyl master?

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          Good question. Most likely I will be purchasing the vinyl when it comes out so I should be able to find out. But here’s hoping!!

          • I’m asking now! :-)

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            I can’t answer these kinds of difficult questions!

          • Same master. :-(

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Dammit!!!!!!

    • Wilhelm

      Yep, It just hurts the music…the sound is also very clean and safe sounding. I’ll pass.

      • Pimpolho

        Maaaaaan… You really shouldn’t…

  • JL

    I don’t like the album. It isn’t bad, but it’s not good. Bland and boring throughout with little reason to revisit any songs. I’ll stick with Akhlys for my black metal pick for 2015.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      That’s a bummer…

      Akhlys is decent though.

      • AndySynn

        “It isn’t bad, but it’s not good. Bland and boring throughout with little reason to revisit any songs.”

        Well, that’s you told. Amend your review immediately!

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          Never!!!!!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Good Review, it’s certainly been an epic year for black metal…
    Despite the fact I’ve not really been in the mood for BM recently I’ve still managed to spend quite a bit of time with a stack of quality releases this year.
    For me so far this year Panopticon is the stand out BM album.
    Though I’ve also really enjoyed Desolate Shrine, Enslaved, Myrkur, Keep of Kalessin and Obsequiae.

    I’ll look forward to checking this one out I suspect it will be one to add to the list!

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      There are some great black metal releases this year. I’m stuck on some odd choices currently: Satanic Warmaster (which I love all their shit) and Death Karma.

    • You wot m8?

      Did you ever listen to Ashbringer? There was a review up in May. Pretty damn good stuff.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        No I missed that one. Thanks for the tip I’ll check it out There really has been such an abundance of quality BM in 2015 it’s hard to keep up.

  • You wot m8?

    The didgeridoo + operatic vocals + piano beat at the beginning of the song is just damn awesome. Well, that’s not a sentence I thought I would ever write out. I’m gonna grab this, and check out their back catalogue.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Get to work!

      • You wot m8?

        So, I went and found a [questionably legal] download of Mellom Skogkledde Aaser. Holy. Fucking. Metal. I’ll have to go and buy it first chance I get. [Yo ho! Yo ho!]

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          Right?!

          • You wot m8?

            I listened through the entire album probably three or four times last night while I played some Halo. My only complaint is the awkward “Intro”, but since it’s only 6 seconds, I think I’ll live…

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Aw yeah. It is weird.

  • Excentric_13073

    Hmmm, I was sort of hoping for a more “Rotting Christ” feel as on display in “Daimon”. Still solid though.

  • Galeus

    Regarding the comment about having a solid idea of your end of year top 10s… I’ll be disappointed if I see you guys release your lists before December 18th, as that’s when Baroness’s Purple comes out. The hype for this album is real.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I’m very excited for that. There is a spot reserved…

  • Dion Ka

    I did not expect to like it but it’s quite cool! It’s short and feels cohesive but sadly there is no vinyl master for this.

  • PropsToOrpheus

    This album is just awesome. I have nothing clever to say, but I’ve been listening since reading this review and felt the need to pile on the love for this album.