I don’t like black metal. Not in its traditional form, anyway. Give some blakkened fukkin thrash or blakkened fukkin death and I’ll bang my head till my skull cracks open, but usually traditional black metal just leaves me shrugging. Often the riffs feel secondary to the atmosphere and it’s telling that a band like Mgla could get as big as they did with a shtick that was essentially “we play black metal, but with riffs you actually care about.” Of course, there are always exceptions. Swedish quintet Avslut earned some acclaim on forums I frequent with their 2018 debut Deceptis, which I enjoyed for its ability to work clever riffing into a traditional black metal template. Not even two years later, the band are back with second album Tyranni, which continues showcasing the band’s strengths but leaves me feeling a little less enthused.
I’ve seen Avslut‘s style compared to Dark Funeral, and while I agree with that comparison, it falls short in the sense that Avslut‘s riffing just feels more interesting to me. “Den Eviga Flamman” and opener “Tyranni” do a good job showing this with the way they alternate frantic, almost thrashy riffs with more traditional passages of blasting drama. “Flamman” sets itself even further above the pack with a closing set of surging riffs that result in one of the most grandiose conclusions on the album. Second track “Stigens Ände” generates some rhythmic intrigue by occasionally trading out the blastbeats for a pounding and peppy beat, while “Allt Förgas” features waltzing progressions and moments of sharp clean picking that sound like Mgla‘s slower moments.
Though the band just formed in 2016, it’s clear they’re strong musicians, with performances that are confident and tight. While at times I’m reminded of Tsjuder or even Dissection, Avslut possess an elegant and at times almost gothic mood that feels uniquely their own. Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t kinks to be worked out. Vocalist Christian Baad delivers a capable rasp, but other than a few repeated vocal hooks in songs like “Likvidering,” he really doesn’t do much to captivate me. I wouldn’t go as far as to call him monotonous, but the word definitely crossed my mind at times. Likewise, later songs like “Pestens Lärjungar” feel weaker than their predecessors and generally seems to pass without note. On a record almost 48 minutes long, their inclusion feels less than essential.
Fortunately, closer “Ändlöst Slaveri” redeems things a bit with lush riffing that feels more like atmospheric black metal than anything else here. Sadly, even it has issues, with its 8-and-a-half minute runtime bisected by a mid-song fade out which makes it feel less like a grandiose conclusion and more like two pretty cool tracks stitched together. The production isn’t without issue, either, as the guitars have a slight bit of muddiness that I don’t love. Yet other than that, Tyranni sounds pretty damn good, with nice trebly chords and drums that patter along with satisfying clarity during the blastbeats.
If you enjoy black metal, I have a hard time seeing why you wouldn’t enjoy Tyranni. Avslut are a young and inspired band and are capable of writing riffs that feel more interesting than some of their brethren. While I mentioned some flaws above, the biggest issue here is that I just have a hard time caring much about this album. Despite listening for two weeks in various environments, I always found myself zoning out in the second half and wondering when the album would truly click. It would have been easy to rate this higher based on the competent performances and scattered moments of intrigue, but doing so would have been disingenuous. I wish this band the best and am sure hardcore black metal fans will enjoy more, but I can’t escape the feeling that Tyranni‘s place for me is firmly at the top of the bell curve.