I’ve noticed that the face of Norwegian black metal is a changing, it’s becoming more adventurous, more rock infused, more progressive and God forbid, more accessible [well, it can’t get LESS accessible — Steel Druhm]. I can confirm however, that while they’re not just all about the evil any longer, they definitely haven’t lost sight or forgotten about the mighty Dark Lord Satan! Breath people, all is still right in the world. Norway’s Koldbrann is the latest and greatest sonic assault on my senses – think Vomitory taking up black metal. It’s difficult to compare Koldbrann to other bands. A 2009 line-up change (addition of drummer Folkedal and guitarist Voidar) saw Koldbrann stepping out of the shadows cast by the likes of similar bands Urgehal, Krypt, Svarttjern and Tsjunder, redefining and expanding their musical direction with more melodic, doomy, progressive, experimental, black-n-roll, catchy-as-hell elements that have some striking similarities to Vreid, Shining (Swedish) and recent Taake. Being that black metal was on the downward spiral, with interest waning by more than just a few, redefinition by our church burning brethren is long overdue. In a nutshell with the release of Vertigo, Koldbrann have become the band Satyricon wish to be.
The album art for Vertigo was created by Trine+Kim, who’ve put together art for the likes of Ulver, Enslaved, Mayhem and Darkthrone to name just a few. While not at all the usual album art selected for a black metal album, the art Trine+Kim crafted is bold, threatening and adventurous, oddly enough drawing inspiration from the Russian Vodka brand 7” – befitting of an unusual black metal album wouldn’t you agree?
“IntroVertigo” does as promised, introducing you to Koldbrann’s new direction and sound. The track starts off as a mid-paced anthem that showcases Mannevond’s (ex-Carnifex, ex-Delirium Bound and ex-Urgehal) thick, stifling vocal range that morphs from soul-stirring screams to menacing spoken passages, bringing to mind images of the butcher from Midnight Meat Train (were he to speak Norwegian of course). The back-end of the track bludgeons your senses to the point where you wonder what you have left to live for, it’s heavy and doomy and literally leaves you feeling as though your dead body is just being dragged along by the sound waves.
Drummer Folkedal and guitarist Voidar have brought some exciting aspects to Vertigo. Voidar previously handled all the technical sound aspects on Koldbrann’s earlier releases (along with those of a host of other bands), on Vertigo however, he decided to stretch his legs and bring in some of the aspects from his independent drone or funeral doom project Hjarnidaudi which centers on the surreal and chaos. While I’m not a fan of drone, what Voidar did on these tracks (“Hjertets Holodomor”, “Terminal Transnistrii” and “Sans Soleil”) and layered in the remaining tracks on Vertigo, brings in just the right amount of the foreboding and the sinister. “Inertia Corridors” is a prime example of the progressive, rock background that Folkedal brings to the table – with the drum lines and guitar riffs being supplied entirely by him. I can’t help but think of Naglfar’s Sheol album when I hear this track – it’s weirdly infectious!
The mix is good and there are no real faults with this album, the guitar work may be a bit repetitive in places, but on the up side, that makes it sticky as shit. My favorite tracks on the album ended up being “Stolichnaya Smert” which is basically one big black metal moshpit party, I suspect it’s going to emotionally scar black metellars and leave their controlled demeanor in tatters (what to do with all those spikes when you’re moshing with the death heads right?). And of course “Inertia Corridors,” with lyrics that are beautiful and poetic, and when added to Folkedal’s and Voidar’s wizardry it’s a win on every level.
In all honesty, I don’t see myself making a huge effort to wade through all Koldbrann’s earlier work. What I did get through in preparation for this review sounded rather meh (was it too…samey? — Steel Druhm]. Vertigo, however, is a must hear!