What’s in a name, anyway? As a n00b of considerable amateurism, babyfaced me ventured forth into the minefield of the promo bin for the first time. I was immediately overwhelmed with the potential amount of sweet tunes that awaited my greedy fingers. Knowing no better, I picked the thing that sounded the coolest: Charnel Heart. Hella tight album title: a reference to the “charnel house,” which is historically a vault in which corpses and bones are piled. Since then it has come to mean any place associated with a violent death. The band name is Flykt, which, although sounding like a carrom champion or a devotee of romantic comedies, simply means “escape” in Swedish. Flykt is a Swedish black metal band, consisting of members from Valkyrja and Rev 16:8, Charnel Heart being this group’s first LP. With a fresh name and a brand-spankin’-new album, can they live up to their moniker and escape the trappings of the overcrowded black metal scene?
In short, no, but that’s not always a bad thing. In line with their countrymen Marduk or Bathory, Flykt denies the Norwegian style of frostbitten razor-thin tremolos in favor of something significantly fiercer, relying on scorching thrash-influenced riffs and pummeling percussion to get their point across, living up to the fatal violence present in their project’s title. The production itself is clearly geared towards the audibility of the grooves, adding enough distortion to generate heft without sacrificing clarity. Across eight tracks and forty-nine minutes of sonic fire, these Swedes are at their best when they revel in the relentless, beating eardrums into submission.
And for much of the forty-nine minutes, they do so with all their hearts. Opener “Compendium of Sacrilege” throws the gates open and sets the stage with crunchy riffs, pounding blastbeats, and blackened reverb-laden vocals. “As Hunters to Havoc (Diatribe),” “Cadaver of Doubt,” “Sent to Destroy,” and the title track follow this template, saturating their five-to-eight-minute track times with furious grooves and scorching tremolo. Flykt also dabbles in influences of doom and melodic death in tracks such as the Batushka-esque “The Great Collapse” or the Dissection-flavored show-stopping title track, which thankfully never feels contrived or heavy-handed.
Unfortunately, in spite of the crunchy positives, listening to Charnel Heart in one sitting is rather exhausting, as even its best moments lose their shine over time due to a general sense of faulty dynamics: mainly, that they range from loud to mega loud with little in between. Likely the biggest culprit is the second track “The Great Assassination,” which consists of open strummed chords at the same level for seven minutes and, frankly, little else. I get that its purpose is to be doomy and ominous and perhaps attempt a grim dynamic structure, but it simply drones on for too long doing too little. In spite of its best moments, Charnel Heart does not necessarily set Flykt apart from other black metal thrashers and simply lives in the shadow of the aforementioned Marduk or Bathory.
But enough nitpicking. I truly enjoyed Charnel Heart and will be returning for its heaviness, even if it may not have the depth or the complexity of other engaging black metal offerings. It likely won’t be on your AOTY, or on any lists around these parts, but there’s beauty in its brutal simplicity and bludgeoning lack of pretense. If you’re looking for a blackened sonic concussion, look no further. It may not ascend the heights of Swedish black metal nor overcome blackened stereotypes, but I have not “Flykt” it away yet.