Bhleg – Fäghring Review

From the deep forests of Sweden comes black/Folk metal band, Bhleg’s latest foray into nature-inspired metal, Fäghring. The band’s statement on this fourth and final album in the “Ár” tetralogy: “After the blackest night comes the most radiant dawn; the spark of life illuminates all that which was swallowed by shadows.” The title translates as “fluorescence.” It’s an adventurous walk in the woods that features an assortment of traditional folk instruments including lyre, hurdy-gurdy, mouth harp, bullroarer, birch trumpet, as well as percussion such as frame drums, birch sticks, and stones. S., the primary force behind Bhleg, creates his most ambitious work to date and brings along a cast of scholars and guest musicians to help. Is this a fitting final sunrise stroll through mysterious Swedish woodlands or a misstep in an otherwise interesting series of darkened nature hikes?

Fäghring is what you might imagine the soundtrack to be if you happened upon a pagan cult in the woods. Kind of “Number of The Beast” meets Midsommar. Birds play a prominent role, and you can almost imagine the canopy of trees gently bending with the breeze throughout. The album begins slowly with a chorus of birds before the chants and drums let you know something more sinister is going on. The energy takes its time to build until the blistering tremolos kick in on track #2, “Grönskande gryning.” This is perhaps the fiercest song on the record and sets a cadence that is never quite matched again. The guitar work is sharp and the production – done at the band’s own Studio Asu – sounds rich and full. While the track gets the blood flowing, we’ve heard this type of blastbeat wall of sound a hundred times before. The sound quality has improved but the attack lacks the hunger of their previous record, Ödhin.

Fäghring’s biggest asset – the use of folk and non-traditional instruments, feels underused. The instrumentation may give the album a more natural sound than its predecessors, but the textures don’t stand out as much as I wanted them to. The most interesting track comes at the halfway mark. “Solvidg” is a slow meditative number with a country-western swagger to it. The shrill, primal chants that start the song have an almost violin-like quality that contrasts brilliantly with the lush female vocals that follow. The whole interlude stands out as the most original section on the record. Things turn dark as the guitars kick in and the song transitions into the 12-minute epic, “Frö.” The beginning retains the country-western vibe of “Solvidg” and sounds like it could have come from Untamed Land’s latest record. Unfortunately, the latter band does spaghetti western metal better and we descend back into stock tremolo riffs.

While the album sets out to bookend several strong releases, Fäghring ultimately suffers from a lack of anything new. Not that Fäghring doesn’t sound different than Bhleg’s other albums, it just doesn’t set itself apart from the other hundreds of one-man black metal projects started around a campfire. S. is clearly a great composer and musician but relies on convention vs innovation here. While I understand the switch from the electronic interludes of past records to the more natural atmosphere on Fäghring, I miss the sense of experimentation and wonder behind those electronic pieces. This is the Nth record I’ve heard in the past five years with birds and wind between every song, I would have liked something new. Vocalist, L. breaks up the traditional harsh black metal delivery with ceremonial-like chanting. This is most effective on “Grönskande gryning” but elsewhere it ends up sounding one-dimensional rather than emotive. The album closer, “Fagna Sumi” is essentially a four-minute chant that leaves me scratching my head. It’s pleasant and optimistic sounding – maybe even fluorescent – but doesn’t seem to punctuate the previous 50 minutes in any meaningful way.

Fans of atmo-black metal seeking a new soundtrack for their next hike should check out Fäghring. The strong moments are wonderful and there’s enough atmosphere to put you in the woodland mindset while you’re listening at the office. Will Fäghring remain in your playlist a few years from now? I’m not sure. I’m already drawn back to my beloved Agalloch and Panopticon records. While a few standout tracks make it worth exploring, the album lacks the staying power of a life-long travel companion.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nordvis Produktion
Website: |
Releases Worldwide: April 1st, 2022

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