Bhleg – Äril Review

Leaves crunch as feet hit the concrete. The air contains a faintly sweet aroma as it passes through the trees. All the things that can be pumpkin-spiced are, indeed, pumpkin-spiced. In the United States, it’s officially autumn through most of its impressive landscape.1 And what better way to bring in the season than with some atmospheric black metal with folk tinges? The last time I listened to Sweden’s Bhleg was with their full-length debut, Draumr ást, an album that was too repetitive and poorly-mixed to really make an impression with me. Fast-forward a few years and coming off an impressive split with Americans Nechochwen, they return with their three-song, 28-minute EP, Äril.

Normally, we don’t handle EPs unless it’s List Time ’round these parts, but I’m making an exception here as there’s some impressive growth since the last time I checked them out. Sure, the black metal bits still recall early Burzum and Ulver, but the atmospheric bits are breathier, more spacious, and intriguing. Also, there’s bass this time! The biggest statement arrives early with opener “Vittra och dö,” clocking in at a hefty fourteen minutes, but making damn good use of its time with various mood shifts, atmospheric chants, sparse-yet-effective use of piano melodies, and a driving drum section near the end that truly makes you feel like you’re embarking on an epic quest through the forest.2


Only on closer “Skördetid,” oddly enough the shortest song on the EP with a run time just a hair under six minutes, do things falter a bit, as its comparatively short duration doesn’t give the song the proper chance to breathe and go places. At least, not compared to the other two tracks on offer. “Från eld till aska,” the creamy center of this Indo-European Oreo cookie, comes the closest to their debut album in terms of similarities, but even then a marked growth remains steadily apparent with the change-ups and inherent energy throughout. Again, the mix leaves a lot to be desired, as the drums oftentimes sounding like wet paper being struck by a baseball bat while the guitars have a little bit too much treble tossed in there.

But I came away from Äril impressed with the amount of songwriting growth from the last five years of Bhleg‘s existence. What once was a release I met with trepidation became an EP where I’m looking forward to where the band goes from here, as the journey provided enough twists, turns, and atmosphere to keep me coming back, making for a great soundtrack to what should be “Autumn.”3 Pair this up with a flannel shirt, a campfire, and whatever pumpkin-spiced/apple-spiced beverage of your choosing on a cool night, and really feel the effects of Äril.

 


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nordvis Produktion
Websites: bhleg.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/bhlegofficial
Releases Worldwide: September 27th, 2019

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Where I live (Northeast Florida), all that’s changed is that I’ve gone from wearing sleeveless t-shirts to t-shirts with sleeves.
  2. Or turning in a non-epic side-quest through the forest. I won’t judge.
  3. Again, Autumn doesn’t exist in much of Florida until, like, December.
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