Written By: Hell³
Having a vague memory of “Orkan” being a song title from Taake‘s 2011 album, Noregs Vaapen and then seeing it recently pop up on AMG’s promo list got me wondering. What did the term mean? My limited foreign language skills being what they are, I consulted Wikipedia, who kindly solved the mystery – a cyclonic windstorm. Now unless a cyclone’s deliberately trying to rip the roofing shingles from my house, temperamental weather conditions don’t keep me up at night. (That honor is actually left to the as yet unseen AMG logo awaiting a triumphant launch on the website). At any rate, I picked up the Livlaus promo for review and discovered there was indeed an interesting link relating to Orkan‘s appearance. It seems that Orkan (the band reference) refers to a Norwegian four-man atmospheric and blackened thrash force, formed back in 2008 by ex-Byfrost drummer Rune Nesse and Taake‘s own live guitarist Gjermund Fredheim. The remaining members of Orkan include frontman Einar Fjelldal (ex-Gravemachine) and former Grimnorth bassist Sindre Hillesdal. With an interesting connection between the two bands established, and having a tipoff that Livalus packs “variation,” that Hoest (Taake) and V’Gandr (Helheim) would do guest vocals, this album all but demanded a review. Variety’s the spice of life, how could I say no!
Things get off to a drawn out start and by the end of the first song you’ve established that variety is NOT Orkan‘s middle name. At more than nine minutes, “Fanden På Veggen” takes what feels like a month of Sunday’s to really get up and moving. The opening melody builds and develops morosely and with painstaking slowness. The atmosphere intensifies and along with the barrage of blast beats comes the backing gurgle of depravity. Around the mid-point of the track you get slapped by déja vu as you realize that Orkan sounds remarkably like Taake, and were the two bands to share a discography, Livlaus would fit comfortably between Noregs Vaapen and Stridens Hus, sans the “Du Ville Ville Vestland” Sabbath flavored doom riffing and the “Myr” banjo interlude.
The rest of the album passes by in a destructive blur with no one track standing out as either particularly good or particularly bad. They’re just there. You listen to them, they sound technically proficient, sometimes catchy, they’re packed with the appropriate number of shifts and changes, they carry on logically from one to the next with nothing jarring and then they’re safely over. Just like that. Nothing stays behind tugging at your memory or your heart-strings. Is anybody out there still looking for “new” generic Norwegian black metal bands? I’m left feeling the album has followed a stale formula and not even the appearance of Hoest on “Uforgjengeleg” and V’gandr on “Livlaus del 3: Tusen Sjeler” do much to liven things up.
Einar Fjelldal’s vocal delivery plays a part in the vanilla taste of this album. Yes, his delivery has marked similarities to Taake‘s frontman. The major difference though is that Einar’s sweat drenched rasps have a one-dimensional quality, a distinct lack of intensity and they lack snarling intent when compared to those of his obvious role model. At a recent show by Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum, Steel Druhm and I commented on the similarity of the two bands performing, and the fact that they were putting on a show together. At times the bands appeared so similar, they were interchangeable and at other times the lesser known of the two actually proved the superior entertainer. This is something that’s going to dog Orkan. Putting two such similar bands on a touring roster together, sharing costs and performers, probably makes good marketing sense. Unfortunately, in this case, it’s going do little more than to highlight the Orkan‘s redundancy.
Despite checking all the boxes necessary for a Norwegian black metal album release, Livlaus has a throw away quality. I have no burning need for second tier black metal. The number of people who still listen to this common brand of black metal has dwindled and to be successful today and attract listeners outside of this small fanpool, an album needs to really shine. Livlaus has little to no shine. Gents, if you take one thing from this review, DO take a note out of Taake‘s Noregs Vaapen – think outside of the checked box you’ve put yourselves in.