Bhleg are a two-piece black metal band from Gothenburg, Sweden. That’s pretty much all the information I can gleam from their Facebook page and their label’s website, and they don’t have a page at Encyclopedia Metallum. One thing I did find from my research is that Bhleg is Proto-Indo-European for “to shine,” which totally threw off our jokes within the Angry Metal Guy castle, as we were wondering if “Meh,” “Hmmph,” and “*Indifferent Shoulder Shrug*” were all utilized for band names already. Sadly, considering their nine-song debut, Draumr Ást, calling themselves “Meh” wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
“Solkronan” comes in with an early Burzum trebly guitar riff that feels cold and very high-end. It’s also extremely repetitious, which is cool for about two minutes. The problem is this is a six-minute-plus song, and that’s what bogs things down here and on Draumr Ást as a whole, as there are about two riffs per song, with three for the more complex tunes. It wouldn’t be a problem if other instruments could be heard, as the guitars and vocals (performed by either J or S, it’s never clarified) are extremely high in the mix, and the drums are barely existent.
With so much repetition going on within this album, you would think some care would go into evoking an atmosphere, and it does succeed to a certain extent. Instrumental “Kosmos pulsådra” possesses an almost trippy, dreamlike vibe with its simplistic keyboard melody, sparse drumming, and a lone guitar playing simple power chords. Basic, but effective. “Alyr” uses an interesting, albeit buried, clean vocal chant recalling early Ulver to help break up the monotony. But other than these songs, it’s just the same one or two riffs played over and over, with very little variance to keep one’s attention intact. “Stjärnkartans väv” even borrows from the Burzum School of Casio Atmospherics for an ultimate test of patience, with only some soft drums to keep things somewhat interesting.
One thing that could have helped Draumr Ást would be a better mix. Yes, I know early black metal was poorly mixed as all get-out, but usually the guitars had some variance and uniqueness to them. I was more interested in hearing the drums over anything else, as there were some curious patterns here. Sadly, they’re so hidden in the mix that you have to dig for them. They’ve also skillfully captured Metallica‘s epic bass tone from …And Justice For All. But the biggest beef I have is that there’s nothing here to sink you into Bhleg‘s blackened void, no draw to suck you into their vortex. It’s just Riff 1-Riff 2-Riff 1-odd break-Riff 2, wash, rinse, repeat.
Draumr Ást aims to be both spiritual and cosmic, and it ends up just being somnambulant and tiresome. Someone will claim this as a spiritual successor to the kvlt, trve days of yore, but most of us have moved on from that point. I just hope, for Bhleg‘s sake, they develop their craft a bit more for the next time around so they are not forgotten as well [Being forgotten is so kvlt! – Steel Druhm].