Back in 2012 I reviewed Ragnarok‘s Malediction and promptly fell hard for the band’s fifth vocalist – HansFyrste. His blend of Hell and damnation hit all the right spots with this AMG spokeswoman for all things “necro,” and naturally prompted me to go scrummaging around into his side projects. Not falling far from the Ragnarok tree, I unwittingly wandered down Svarttjern‘s Misanthropic Path of Madness, and discovered a band that Natterforst himself granted the title of “True Norwegian Black Metal – Anti-human, Anti-life” (previously only assumed by greats like Taake and Carpathian Forest) – what a find! Svarttjern don the same corpse paint, fire and spikes as their brothers in no frill black metal bands like Sarkom, Koldbrann, the ghoulish Tsjunder and Urgehal, which has them slotting into my playlist rather nicely if I do say so myself. So along comes 2014 and with it, Svarttjern‘s third full-length release – join me as I get to play judge, jury and executioner with Ultimatum Necrophilia.
“Shallow Preacher” kicks off the album in a bombastic fashion, with a rockingly infectious riff overlayed by the isolating, yet horsely inviting vocals of HansFyrste. For the most part his vocals bring to mind a dodgy cult leader weeding out suitable followers – I haven’t come across a decent cult leader of late, so for shits and giggles, I’m going to give him a follow! The track goes on to preach its tail of darkness with plenty of tempo shifts and a great galloping riff that hooks its claws onto your willing subconscious and “Shallow Preacher” feels more dramatic and forceful than what the band delivered on Misanthropic Path of Madness.
Audun Ulleland or Grimmdun as he’s know in Svarttjern, also drums for doom metallers Magister Templi. In “Aged Burden Fades” Grimmdun delivers a simple aggressive little treat and has the track brimming with abhorrent, nasty blast beats, staying true to Svarttjern‘s relentlessly aggressive black metal roots. He further proves his skill in “From Caves to Dust,” “Hymns for the Molested,” “Where There is Lust” and the title track, introducing some neat and unexpected tempo shifts and the dense and doomy fills he’s carried through from his time with Magister Templi. HaaN (who guested on “Preditors in Disguise” off Sarkom‘s Doomsday Elite) handles lead guitars while Patrick Moller Nilsen or Fjellnord (also of Magister Templi) handles rhythm guitar. They demonstrate they can shift from tunes like “Hymns for the Molested” which sports a dark, galloping thrill-ride that sounds like something Watain or maybe Marduk would dish, and they can also deliver uncluttered melancholy normally reserved for bands like Agalloch, as they do on “From Caves to Dust.” Vocally, HansFyrste shines on tracks like “From Caves to Dust,” the title track and “Hymns for the Molested.” He harnesses the same vocal theatrics and grunts put out by Niklas Kvarforth of Shining (Swedish) and changes between cleans, demanding whispers and wretched screams throughout the album.
This is Svattjern‘s longest offering to date and therein lies my biggest complaint. At 42-minutes and a lengthy 11 tracks, it’s just too damned long and my attention starts to taper off by the time I reach “For Those in Doubt.” Following in the footsteps of Misanthropic Path of Madness and editing the album down to the eight best tracks and a nice, round 31-minutes would have held this executioner at bay [No one really believes that. You’re execution happy! — Steel Druhm]. My other big complaint kicks in around “From Caves to Dust,” and while the track is very listenable, there’s an annoying squeak layered somewhere in the mix that torments me like a red hot poker.
While Svarttjern have the distinctly Norwegian style of the aforementioned bands, there are times when they wander across the melodiously fuzzy line into what feels like something a Swedish black metal band would try. I applaud this and demand more crossover! Ultimatum Necrophilia offers more diversity, devastation and risk-taking than I found on Misanthropic Path of Madness and if you’re a fan of HansFyrste’s ghastly vocal style on Ragnarok‘s Malediction or Svarttjern‘s earlier releases, you won’t be disappointed.