I’m still a believer of the album. I crave something that’s more than just a collection of songs. Sometimes I get that from the promo bin, most of the time I don’t. Unfortunately, we live in a society that prefers the random shuffle of Pandora to eight-or-ten succinct songs from the same artist. I can’t say I’ve ever put my media player on shuffle and I haven’t listened to the radio since high school. So, this is why I’m the way I am. To me, a great album is a layered cake. Each layer providing support for the next. Each layer building off the other, intensifying the flavor until the final layer is achieved. Each layer provides its own contribution to the taste but, as a whole, the cake elevates the experience and embodies the person who made it. And that’s what Craft has done here.
I have to admit, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Craft. Though this Swedish quintet (or is it a quartet now?) has been around for close to twenty years, they’ve never written an album that wow’d me. The ’00 debut, Total Soul Rape, and ’02 follow-up, Terror Propaganda, met the raw, chaotic standards of classic Scandinavian black metal that never quite caught my attention. And even when the band began to mix in some mid-paced passages and dark, engulfing atmospheres for Fuck the Universe and Void, I still wasn’t quite convinced. Now, after seven years, the band is back with a new bassist and drummer, a cleaner end-product, and a real focus on songwriting. Each song grows within itself—building mountains out of ant hills—and each one works together for the greater good. White Noise and Black Metal has made me a believer.
And the adventure begins with “The Cosmic Sphere Falls.” In general, this is a pretty typical black metal piece. But when one gives it a second spin, the mid-paced layers are there; stacked one upon the other. Beyond that, you’ll also notice the album’s polished production. Gone is the wall of noise and the tinniness of the band’s earlier work. Instead, you can hear a guitar in one ear and a guitar in the other, an actual contributing bass in the back, and drums that do more than pound the off-beat into oblivion.
Case in point, “Undone” and “Crimson.” The former comes at you with a groovy lick that charges along until your left ear suddenly disappears. The stammering guitar finally finds its beat and the riff comes at you even harder. Not only is this a nifty thing to do, but it also gives a live-recording vibe to the whole album. And without the live feeling—one band member playing off the other—”Crimson” wouldn’t work. Scandinavian-styled black metal instrumental? Yeah, I was wary myself. But, it turns out, the key is to keep it simple and pump small doses of intensity into the repeating riffs until they burst, rattling your ears and racing your heart. It’s a super simple song but, goddamn, does the band push those riffs to their limits.
Other standouts would have to be the Dissection-esque “Tragedy of Pointless Games” and the vicious Thorns-like closing duo, “YHVH’s Shadow” and “White Noise.” “Tragedy of Pointless Games” has a similar pace to “The Cosmic Sphere Falls,” but with more depth and memorability, while “YHVH’s Shadow” is a growing nightmare of twists and turns that ends in a Thorns-like mindfuck. And, like “Undone” (before it travels off into dark, melodic territories), “White Noise” is blessed with one hell of a stomping riff. But, when it feels like the song is going to burst with anticipation, it reels itself back in and continues on its controlled journey. Which is pretty much the album in a nutshell.
At the end of the day, White Noise and Black Metal is a very different album than Craft fans are familiar with. That said, this new disc has to be my favorite of theirs. There is a surprise around every corner and each song compliments the next. It does take a couple songs to get things rolling but once it’s set, it rolls. For diehard fans, you may need some patience with this one. For everyone else, White Noise and Black Metal needs at least a few spins to absorb. For me, this is one of my favorite black metal releases of 2018.