Dødsferd – Wrath Review

I didn’t really get into black metal until I started writing for AMG. This was primarily caused by a misconception of what these genres entailed, a sort of genre discrimination based in ignorance (isn’t that always the root cause?). In the case of black metal, I thought the definition of the style equated to lo-fi second wave black metal, or the sonic equivalent of hoovering up a marble with a cyclone vacuum. I still avoid that particular sound, generally speaking, but since I have come to love black metal over the years, I must on occasion make my return to the blackest corner of the kingdom. Enter Dødsferd, a long-running project by a Greek who goes by the name Wrath, and his new album… Wrath. Dødsferd has in the past gathered the admiration of our prime maternal deity Madam X and the crabby old Dr. Grier, but can the band hook reviewer number 3?

After reading up on the band’s storied career and many sub-sub-genre shifts, it seems that on Wrath, Wrath returns to his older sound, a loving/hating homage to the frozen 90’s of Norway. The DSBM approach is largely gone, replaced by a furious frenzy of thrashy tremolos and raspy screeches. Perhaps Wrath felt that style was played out; perhaps he just got nostalgic. Whatever the reason, none of the potency was lost across a decade and change. From the start of “Restoration of Justice” to the end of “Failure Ablaze in your Existence,” Wrath is a rollicking cavalcade of riffs as sharp and frosty as icicles. A healthy injection of hook-laden melodicism into the battering beam of blasts keeps the songs from growing stale, and a high-pacing and spirited performances allow the adrenaline to flow like white water rapids.

It’s this melodic streak that makes Wrath so effective and versatile. Though it’s not a particularly progressive album, most tracks pass the 7-minute mark, yet their length is hardly noticeable because the riffs catch your ass like hellfire. The pacing, energy, and mood are all quite dynamic and have an easy, natural flow, that make it as easy on the ears as a screeching misanthropic manifesto against mankind can be. “Raging Lust of Creation” is the best showcase of this flow, rolling from bridge to solo to riff so graceful, you barely notice it’s a 10-minute track. But on its heels come two shorter bangers, of which my personal favorite is “Spiritual Lethargy”’s combination of unrelenting blasts and hook-laden leads.

But if all this got you so excited you want to buy the vinyl, specifically for the exclusive track included there, “Back to my Homeland…A Beast in Calm,” you may want to finish reading first. The promo I received included this track as well, and it was enough to make me want to drop a full point off the score. It’s a 13-minute slab of repetitive atmospherics, augmented with separated sections of reverb-heavy DSBM howling, hip-hop stanzas (?!) and prayers in spoken word. It is very experimental, and the experiment has gone very wrong, to the point where it made me throw up my hands and give up on any attempt to engage with it whatsoever. As it’s a bonus track not included with most of the versions of Wrath, I decided not to let it affect my final score, but it does leave a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Though I’ll never be the foremost expert on this particular style of black metal, the quality of Dødsferd’s output is undeniable. Even the production manages to retain a certain clarity, balancing the frostbitten textures of high treble and low bass with a solid mix that avoids the broken vacuum without giving up on the second wave sound. It’ll be interesting to see where the band goes after coming full circle like this, but when one band can unite Madam X, Grier and me alike, you know you got some good shit cooking.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Hypnotic Dirge Records
Websites: dodsferdofficial.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/dodsferd
Releases Worldwide: May 10th, 2024

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