First, there was Ofermod‘s new record, Sol Nox. A solid outing from a band with a notoriety tied directly to the quality of their releases. Though the band shares many connections to “larger” bands in the Swedish black metal scene, Ofermod is a wholly underrated gem. But, Ofermod aren’t the only ones. No, there are others. Many of you may not know them, so let me introduce you to Svartsyn; one of my favorite black metal acts of all time. And, like Ofermod, one of the most underrated. But, unlike Ofermod, Svartsyn have several releases under their belts. Since 1997, these demons have released album after album of crushing riffs, fluctuating moods, and kit-work that’d bore a hole through your chest like the blunt end of a rod of rebar. But, with seven albums to compare to, where does 2017’s In Death stack up within two decades of black metal mayhem?

During the first half of the band’s career, they were unstoppable. Their second release, …His Majesty, is one of the best black metal records ever recorded. Though no other album in their arsenal has topped it, there are others on the same level. Albums like 2003’s Destruction of Man and 2007’s Timeless Reign. Hell, even the misperceived Bloodline is up there with their best. Regardless of what founder/vocalist/songwriter/damn-near-everything-ist Ornias has to say about it. But, since 2011’s Wrath upon the Earth, Ornias hasn’t been able to capture those riffs and that passion he once possessed. With that album, Ornias dabbled in gruffier vocals and punchy riffs that felt more death than black—something that completely changed the band’s sound. He continued to experiment with this black/death hybrid on 2013’s Black Testament, but it just didn’t work. Now, he’s come full circle: back to a sound that resembles their bludgeoning sound of old.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite the same. That massive drum and guitar assault of yore is replaced with sporadic, headbanging riffs (rather than nonstop ones), mid-paced black metal tremolos, and building atmospheres that conclude in thick waves of blastbeats and machete-sharp guitars. Though this latter element exists throughout the album, it’s clearest on the first three tracks of the record. The result is that the combination of building atmospheres and concussive conclusions, along with six-to-eight-minute runtimes, makes the three songs blend together. “Seven Headed Snake,” “Dark Prophet,” and “With Death” aren’t bad, but, excepting “Dark Prophet,” they meander a lot. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of venom pouring from the instruments, but the songwriting isn’t strong enough to back it up.

It’s not until the second half of the album that things get a little more exciting. “Inside the White Mask” and closer “Exile in Death” both have captivating midsection riffs that grow heavier as they progress. The former in particular, transitions into something downright catchy. Both songs alternate back and forth between their massive riffs and standard tremolo core, but each finale climaxes into a goddamn thunderstorm. A thunderstorm made even louder by the constant machine gun fire of the guitars.

My favorite number on the album, though, is “Black Thrones of Death.” But for completely different reasons than “Inside the White Mask” and “Exile in Death.” There are no monstrous riffs or crippling assaults (well, not the same kind as anyway). Instead, the song does what the entire album has been trying to achieve since the beginning: take a mid-paced approach, build sinister atmospheres for seven-ish minutes, before propelling it forward to its crushing conclusion. “Black Thrones of Death” is a mid-paced piece that grows and grows; expertly crafted to keep one’s attention and unload everything its got on the listener.

Unfortunately, like Black Testament before it, In Death has a pace and a vibe that doesn’t mesh with me. Being a believer of the aggressiveness and originality they possessed early in their career, this is hard for me to get behind. If it wasn’t for the few tracks on the back-half of the record, I’d find it disappointing. Instead, it turns out to be a touch more engaging than its predecessor. In Death is a grower and I suspect I will enjoy it more with time. But, in the end, the band has set the bar so high that an album like In Death (with just as many standout tracks as it has forgettable ones), falls victim to the post-Wrath era.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Agonia Records
Websites: facebook.com/svartsyn666
Releases Worldwide: June 9th, 2017

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  • Tofu muncher

    Dayum, I never know Svartsyn before today (apparently my trvue BM exposure just hovers around the first wave of BM, and very early second wave). I’m listening to In Death as I typed this and liking what I hear thus far. Very nice review (>.<)m/

  • Wes Allen

    Well, I may not listen to this, but I’m absolutely going to check out …His Majesty. Thanks for the review, Dr.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      You should!

    • Monsterth Goatom

      I think a lot of people will be listening to that today. The doctor’s recommendations are always golden.

      In fact, why don’t we all listen to it together! Say, 10AM MST? It’ll be an event of cosmic oneness with our metal brothers and sisters!

      • basenjibrian

        I fear that might end all life on earth!
        Pshaw! It’s 10:00 MST right now!
        Looking outside at the moment, I see the image of a Dragon consuming the sun. Aieeeeeeeeee! It has been good to (cyberspace speaking) know you allllllll.

    • EnslavedEld73

      Wasn’t familiar with these guys but I like what I hear. And after a very brief sampling of older releases I at least appreciate the production on the new one more. The vocals are a high point. Authentic.

  • Drew Music

    Color me torn. Some dark and evil part of me is reveling in the apparently ceaseless influx of Black Metal that 2017 has proven itself to be this far, but part of me is just, kinda, like, Staaaahhhp!
    Y’know?

    • Sean Sky

      Now that it’s summer here my black metal listening is probably going to dwindle. Not that weather solely dictates listening habits but when you’re cruisin’ with the windows down on a 90 degree day sometimes cold black metal just doesn’t feel appropriate.

      • Drew Music

        I feel that, I’m in the same boat. Luckily, summer is like two minutes long where I’m at, this blasphemy of non-kvlt seasonal weather is only ever a fleeting fancy here (to me, anyway, there is a little bit of a metal scene in Maine but it’s largely buried by country, weak radio hip-hop and stepdad metal.)

  • Wilhelm

    I’m digging the embedded song, I’ll be sure to check out some earlier stuff too, thanks.

  • Janclaudevandamage

    Black Metal bands make me laugh, they pick the easiest subject in the world to growl/shriek along to i.e. badmouthing Christianity and think their so fucking badass. How about they get with the 21st century and try the same shit with Islam. Europe is being invaded with this medieval crap much like it was hundreds of years ago by Christianity. You have a relevant target, take a shot motherfuckers if you have the balls……….

    • basenjibrian

      Europe may be being invaded, and this is a European band. But, the United States has a vice president who is scary as hell, a president, who, contrary to sneering class-based mutterings about “Deplorables” was largely elected by affluent suburban fundamentalists. So, I have no problem with some focus on the pernicious doctrines of Christianity. Besides, one can easily extend their critique from Christianity to Islam, as Islam is nothing but a bastardized cosplay version of Christianity and Judaism*.
      Besides, to be truly edgy a band should focus on corrupt crony capitalism and toxic nationalism. But too many black metal bands celebrate toxic nationalism, and there is no sophisticated critique of capitalism dominant in the metal world. (Look to punk rockj for that!)
      (*I know, I know Rumi. Arab science from 1,000 years ago, yada yada yada).

      • Janclaudevandamage

        I won’t comment on Trump other than say that despite his claims that he will drain the swamp he is no better than the rest of the worlds politicians. A shame really.

        The problem with all man made constructs be it political systems, religion, society etc is they all seem fine on paper (except religion which is plain dumb) but as soon as you add people to the equation they become unworkable and corrupt. Religion is by far the most dangerous and evil and needs to be exposed and ridiculed at every opportunity. Whilst Christian fundamentalism still prevails in america to a slight degree, it does not kill or subjugate people to the same extent as Islam around the whole world. How about a cradle of filth t shirt saying Mohammed is a cunt or Marduk writing a song called fuck me Mohammed. Black metal bands are pussies!

        • basenjibrian

          Black Metal bands are generally heavy drinking and drugging entertainers having fun with their buddies and marketing themselves via a niche. Not much market for mocking Islam in the United States. Most of the anti-Islam crowd, I am guessing prefers country music. :)

          • Janclaudevandamage

            I live in England and am sick of the atrocities committed in the name of Allah and then told Islam is a religion of peace. I want the lies exposed but you are probably right about black metal bands being drunk stoners. Maybe Garth brookes can write fuck me Mohammed instead…lol

          • basenjibrian

            LOL.

            The lies of all humans who use religion should be exposed. No problem with anti-submission bands arising, as long as it does not devolve into universal condemnation of all people following a religion. Heck, some of my friends and acquaintances are fundamentalist Christians.

          • Janclaudevandamage

            You’re right, not all people are bad just because they are religious. Its the concepts and atrocities committed that need to be exposed and ridiculed. Sadly if you look at the salman Rushdie fatwa, Charlie hebdo murders, Danish Mohammed cartoons, Islam has shown complete contempt for freedom of speech and the rule of law and unless this is tackled we will end up in a cultural hell hole of sanctioned only entertainment so we don’t offend anyone. Going back to my original point though, I want to see some black metal bands be true to the black metal philosophy and stop pussyfooting around with a religion on its knees like rob halford without an oxygen tank 2 songs into a concert. Let’s put some danger back in black metal. Maybe with enough exposure and ridicule, Islam can be taken back from the extremists.

          • Nukenado

            Al-Namrood fucks with Sharia law.
            Orphaned Land deals with unity and peace between religions.

          • basenjibrian

            Oops. You already made my point for me! Al Namrood is pretty cool

          • Nukenado

            I don’t want to get too political, but Islam had its tolerating, non-“infidel/apostate” murdering days (the golden age of Islam, where they had inventions, translated many scripts and writings, traded, and weren’t killing non-Muslims), and Bosnian Muslim refugees from Yugoslavia never caused any trouble as far as I know

          • basenjibrian

            Better during that era than the same time period in “Christian” Europe, of course.

          • basenjibrian

            Fair enough and good points, all!
            I have actually heard a Saudi black metal band. Now THAT takes balls!

          • GWW

            Your lies should also be exposed, the biggest is that you are intelligent and know anything. You sound like any typical poorly educated 24 year old.

          • GWW

            You don’t know what the **** you are talking about. You don’t know anybody or what they like in music. You don’t know the “anti-Islam” crowd. You just spout nonsense out of your ass.

        • GWW

          Wow. That is a lot of nonsense. Man made “constructs”!?!? What were expecting? God Made constructs!? Alien made Constructs!? ADDING PEOPLE is the problem!? That is as Sociopathic a statement as is possible.
          Religion is the most dangerous?! Try some facts to back that nonsense up!?

          • basenjibrian

            I don’t see any “facts” in your posts, GWW. Just hysterical accusations and talking points your youth group promotes.
            Sorry. They don’t work.
            It’s not sociopathic to acknowledge that human beings do nasty things. So do your religious leaders. As for sociopaths, “Hate your family. Follow me. Turn or burn” Pretty sociopathic to me.
            “He loves you. He loves you and He needs money” .
            (Of course, much of this is from Paul, who never met Jesus except as a hallucination. What you call “Christianity” and based on the “teachings of Christ” is basically nonsense schemed up by a weird, repressed wandering preacher. I call it “Paulism”.

      • GWW

        So, what “pernicious” doctrines in Christianity are you talking about? You do realize that Christ is the NEW TESTAMENT, not the old. What do you find pernicious in Christ’s actual teachings?! Or do you even know anything about it, shooting your mouth off about religion and politics in a fucking Metal Article!?

        • basenjibrian

          The Fall of Man. Original Sin. Substitutionary Atonement. “No Man cometh before the Father except through Me” (sayeth every single cult guru ever)
          All of these doctrines seem immoral to me. As does the completely incoherent concept of an All-Knowing, All Seeing, All Powerful, All Beneficient (three Omnis doctrine) eternal being who knew everything at the beginning of time yet knowingly created Hitler, Genghis Khan, The Black Plague, and Typhoons that wipe out hundreds of thousands of people,
          Christianity has never adequately responded to the Epicurean questions, never convincingly or morally responded to the Problem of Evil.
          As for the vaunted New Testament, revelations is far more horrific than anything in the Old Testament.
          Your last sentence is rather funny given that you are doing the exact same thing. Especially while using a corpse paint image as your avatar. But, yes. No need to derail the thread further.

          • GWW

            Immoral?! God is immoral. Even secular culture is based on the Ten Commandments. Also, the doctrine is agnostic or gnostic. You can either KNOW or never know the true nature of god. Still, you have not even answered the question. What you cite, much is Church doctrine. Christianity is the Teachings of Christ through the New Testament and requires nothing else. It’s called Christianity for a reason. As for secular man being more moral, that is a joke. Communists have murdered more people than any force on the planet. MURDERED, not killed, by nature or whatever. Care to dispute those figures?! To say Christianity is immoral is nonsense. Maybe you don’t know the definition well enough.

          • basenjibrian

            Which set of commandments? There are several. There is no singular “Ten Commandments” .
            How do you know what these “Teachings of Christ” are? Which Christ? There were many wandering cult leaders in the ferment of early C.E. Judea.
            Do you know the history of how the New Testament was cobbled together by politicians and church leaders decades, no centuries, after the purported life and death of Christ? As for the simplicity of the teachings, that is laughable. There are thousands of sects, many of which disagree on fundamentals. Christians cannot even fundamentally agree on salvation…works? faith…grace? works, faith, and grace? Better get it right or the local church will string your ass up as a heretic!
            I am not saying “secular man is more moral”. But relying upon received wisdom from a religious tradition as violent as Christianity is not a good riposte, either.
            Did you know Stalin and Pol Pot were seminary students? I wonder where they learned their lovely purist approach to things? Maybe from Martin Luther (“Kill all the vile Jews”) or the Cathar Crusades (Kill all the Gnostics so we can steal their land in the Name of the Lord”).
            Humanity is a particularly violent Greater Ape. Of course human beings do nasty things. But religious leaders certainly use religion to do immoral things, and in the confused mélange of sayings, primitive magic, folk wisdom, and “church traditions” you can justify almost anything. and Christians have used their religion to justify horrible things.
            Some argue that Communism itself-born in Christian Germany and Christian England – has deep roots in Christian thought. (Secularized, of course).
            And, why pick on “Communism”. The Communists did not create the horrors (still ongoing) in The Congo. Communists did not create Union Carbide’s Bhopal disaster. Capitalism, as with all flawed human systems, also has killed and continues to kill millions. The United States is arguably the biggest terrorist entity in the world today-all justified in worship of power and the mighty market.
            I am done with this argument. You keep personalizing it via attacks on me as an individual. Have a nice life. Does your youth pastor know you listen to heavy metal? Mine would have been shocked.

          • GWW

            Who says God knew everything at the beginning of time and knowingly created Hitler!? You don’t seem to know anything about church doctrine of Christianity except what you read in some College course. And CORPSE PAINT for my Avatar!? What are you talking about?! I don’t take Black Metal any more seriously than i take your nonsense.

          • basenjibrian

            That is the common understanding of your deity. Omniscient. Omnipotent. Or…are you now claiming a deity that is not ALL THAT? did He not create Lucifer? Did He not create evil? Does he not create the world that leads to typhoons and viral infections. That also contradict several verses in the Babble. Many theologians and most believers would (on the surface) disagree with you.
            LOL, re: corpse paint not taken seriously. Sure. Yet you take seriously a religion of hatred that condemns the vast majority of humanity to eternal torture.

      • GWW

        Islam is nothing like Christianity or Judaism. Your “pernicious doctrines” provided the bedrock for Western Civilization, the Enlightenment, The Magna Carta, American Revolution…all based in Christianity. You yourself are a self loathing errant product of the West and Christian morality. It is ALL traced back to Christ. Atheism didn’t build a damned thing anywhere. Atheism is another word for GENOCIDE. Nazism and Communism have their roots in secular morality and politics and left 200 million people dead in it’s trail. So much for your shallow and ignorant ideas.

    • Frankenrin

      Those bands exist, turns out though that the art of making a target out of Islam without being a racist prick is a thing Black Metal hasn’t really mastered. Albums that I have encountered featuring artwork that’s blatantly anti-islamic has mostly been pretty right-wing (Sielunvihollinen, Two Runes e.g.)

      • Nukenado

        Check out Al-Namrood. They risk their lives making music, for they are atheists living and making music in Saudi Arabia. Also they’re not rascist.

  • rumour_control

    Echo the Ofermod sentiment. Ironically, just re-listened to Tiamtü yesterday, so, the usual strange synchronocity. Let’s hope In Death is a grower; although, the passion rarely increases over time when the instincts prove otherwise so early on. One can hope, though.

  • GWW

    2.5 out of 5 should be pretty damn disappointing for a band like Svartsyn. I don’t get you rating system. 1/2 is a pretty good? This is a 3.3 or so. A good album enjoyable to many, especially BM fans. 2.5 is I Ain’t Buying It.

    • Our rating guide is posted on the upper right side of the site. 2.5 = mixed. Some strong points, some weak points.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I’m glad you enjoy it. Compared to previous albums of theirs, this one just wasn’t as good.