2012 felt like a letdown in terms of depressive black metal. Some of the releases I waited for not so patiently [nudge, nudge, hint, hint Skitliv] just failed to materialize and the albums that did finally limp along failed dismally to drive me into even the slightest state of self-loathing or nihilism [thanks for that Shining and even Forgotten Tomb didn’t really deliver anything that wasn’t already out there]. Thankfully Norway’s So Much for Nothing, fronted by Erik Unsgaard (Sarkom) made a good attempt at picking up the slack with the dark and destructive platter offered up in Livsgnist (ironically enough meaning ‘spark of life’). Five Years in the making, Livsgnist includes quite an interesting line-up with guest appearances by Peter Huss (Apostasy and Shining), the late Trondr Nefas (Urgehal and Beastcraft), Eirik Renton (Trollfest), Niklas Kvarforth (Shining) and a host of session musicians.
Stripped down to seven tracks and totaling a nice round 48 minutes, So Much for Nothing’s debut album Livsgnist is NOT the album I expected out of Norway – less frigid, the album is a comfortable, yet dark and destructive rock influenced, introspective journey into the mind of madness, containing a blend of clean vocals intertwined with screams worthy of a man being skinned alive! Opener “Suicide Syndrome” kicks off on a suitably moody note with a great mix of distortion and an unexpectedly cold and murderous sounding saxophone, delve a little deeper and you’ll wonder into the angst filled symphonic crusher of “Suffer in Silence”, and finally you’ll stumble upon the convoluted trumpet opener of “New Beginnings”. “Suffer in Silence” is the colossal track that originally attracted me to the album, it’s oppressive in the extreme and contains all the standard Shining or Kvarforth elements – vocals so full of heartache it sounds as though his throat is being crushed by each destructive lyric as he berates you to kill yourself using every means possible. Try and walk away from that one unaffected – I dare you! Instrumentally this album encompasses gripping riffs and solos (check out “My Precious” and for the damn near Agalloch sounding riff secreted away at the heart of the title track “Livsgnist”), there’s also some great interplay between guitarists in “Suicide Syndrome” and last but by no means least, passionate and ballsy drum work courtesy of Uruz.
While this is easily 2012’s top depressive black metal release and a great blend of the Norwegian and Swedish black metal styles, faultless it’s not. “Suicide Syndrome”, the opening track, comes at you brimming with a healthy serving of gooey, cheesy cleans – glad they kept those to a minimum! Livsgnist has a clean mix giving the album a nice modern feel and despite the dark subject matter the album is still well accessible. In terms of the mix there are a few instances where the drums are just too high and the guitars pushed too far back, unnecessarily overshadowing some pretty nifty riffage – don’t go slitting your wrists over this though, it’s still a great album!
Tracks to check: “Suffer in Silence”, “Perfect” and “My Precious”.