Researching old-school black metal bands is like playing a game of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Start with any Norwegian outfit and, by the time you’re done, you’ve crossed through damn-near all them. The same can be said about the Swedish scene. Today’s game of who’s who starts with Swedish record label, Shadow Records. A label founded by Deathfucker, the bassist/guitarist of the defunct Triumphator; a band that once saw young Arioch (or Mortuus to you Marduk enthusiasts) behind the mic. From here, we can follow Deathfucker (or Marcus Tena) to Malign, which I don’t believe he did much in. In Malign, we find a behemoth known only as Nord: ex-vocalist of the mighty Ofermod. From Malign, you can backtrack through Mörk to Watain (where he served as a live musician) and meet up with all-around black-metaller, Necromorbus; who toyed around in Watain (and Ofermod) and contributed significantly to Arioch’s Funeral Mist. Which brings us back to Triumphator and Shadow Records. Once the home to almost every band mentioned here, Shadow Records appears once more with Ofermod‘s newest release, Sol Nox.
But, to me, it doesn’t matter what record label it is. A new Ofermod album is a big deal. These purveyors of Swedish black metal (along with such acts as Marduk, Ondskapt, Watain, and the irreplaceable Dissection) have been cranking out music since 1996. Yet, Sol Nox is only their third full-length. Though delayed by incarcerations and gang-related activities, the band has managed to release some of the genre’s best records. Twenty-twelve’s Thaumiel got a hell of a lot of praise from Madam X and Angry Metal Guy. And, though, that was only a four-year wait following their debut, we’ve had to endure another five years waiting for Sol Nox. Tiamtü was a great debut, but Thaumiel topped it. And now the question remains: will Sol Nox top Thaumiel?
Well… we’ll get to that. But, one thing is for sure; Thaumiel and Sol Nox are two different beasts. While Thaumiel‘s opener, “Sisters of Rapture and Pestilence,” combines everything from graveling black-metal rasps to heart-pounding riffs, exotic drum patterns, and agonizing melodies, Sol Nox‘s “The Alpha of the Omega” is a true-blue black-metal number that’ll crack your anvil. There are plenty of sweeping tremolos and melodic sections on Sol Nox, but nothing like there was on Thaumiel. And that’s Sol Nox in a nutshell. It’s aggressive black metal, with big fucking vocals, even bigger riffs, and wispy clouds of emotion. It’s dark, it’s mean, it’s beautifully satanic, and it’ll cut chasms through your pathetic, happy-go-lucky heart.
Sol Nox doesn’t have the clean Gorgoroth-like vocals of Thaumiel‘s “Calling of Setnacht Twofold Triunity” or the cleanliness of “Undead Moon,” but it makes up for it on the returning pendulum swing. The one-two punch of “Smaiut N Set” and “Sol Nox,” for example, fill your ears with churchy-chants of blasphemy (that remind me of Watain‘s “Stellarvore”) and headbanging cannonades of razor-sharp riffs. The type of riffs that’ll pull a record clean off its turntable. The blistering-fast picking rides up and down the frets, the drums bash on your skull nonstop, and Kvarnbrink’s vocals sound like fingers raking through gravel.
But the tracks that have embedded themselves into my brain forever are the final three of this seven-track record. “Sun of Dead Seasons” is the highlight of the disc. It combines tension-building chugs with dancing atmospheres. And, Kvarnbrink’s vocals bark forth with support straight from the choirs of hell. But, right when you think the song has come to its end, it continues. With seconds remaining, it tackles a whole new riff that bleeds like a cancer into follow-up track “El-Ehea;” a three-and-a-half minute descent into pure fucking Armageddon. The closer, “To Dare the Tower,” rounds out the three, borrowing Dissection-like builds from the opener and hate from “Sun of Dead Season” and “El-Ehea.” It fluctuates throughout its five-minute length and induces everything from unearthly vocal barrages to unsettling melodies. Evil permeates its skin and it haunts you to the end—abruptly stopping and leaving a haunting chorus in its wake.
So, do I think Sol Nox is better than Thaumiel? No. But, it’s not far off. Because of their differing approaches, they become difficult to compare. Which is fantastic if we have to keep waiting half a decade for a new record. Thaumiel is a fuller album from beginning to end, while Sol Nox is a thirty-five-minute journey into hate and violence. So, if you’re looking for something to whet your black-metal appetite and drive away the summer sun, Ofermod (as always) is fucking it.