Denmark. It’s one of those places oft-overlooked, by me at least. If I think of Scandinavia, Norway and Sweden immediately come to mind, belatedly followed by Finland — which I’m reasonably sure is not actually part of Scandinavia — and only then, Denmark. Similarly, when I think of metal, and black metal, in particular, the same countries come to mind, probably in the same order. Denmark just isn’t really on my geographic or musical radar. I realize this will be deeply offensive to any Danish readers but I’m British and we currently specialize in offending other Europeans by the disparaging way we talk about them and their countries.1 I also realize that I am just inviting you all to tell me about the many amazing Danish bands I am blissfully unaware of. But first, a few words about Danish black metal band Geistaz’ika. A very few words, since that’s about all I know about Geistaz’ika; they are a black metal band from Denmark. I don’t know where in Denmark, nor how many of them there are, but I can tell you with reasonable confidence that Trolddomssejd I Skovens Dybe Kedel is their debut. Initially put out in digital-only format late last year, the record is now getting its physical release via Signal Rex.
And this is a good thing because Trolddomssejd I Skovens Dybe Kedel, or Witchcraft Seed in the Deep Kettle of the Forest according to Google Translate, is a very fine album. Fundamentally, Geistaz’ika play old school Scandinavian black metal. In this mode, the guitars are all icy, trem-picked riffs with lightning-fast blast beats and harsh rasped vocals. ‘Sung’ in Danish, the probably-wildly-inaccurate Google translations of the song titles, suggest that dark, occult themes and the end of all hope are the order of the day on Trolddomssejd. But there is more to Geistaz’ika than just 90s black metal revival. They — I am working on the assumption it is a “they” — also intersperse dark, folky melodies, utilizing acoustic guitars and clean ethereal vocals, recalling Bergtatt-era Ulver or Winterfylleth, as well as blackened death metal riffs, before lapsing back into pummeling black metal. And that’s all in the space of Trolddomssejd’s first proper track “Når solen bløder rød.” Other parts of the record see guttural roars and a riff bordering on stoner doom deployed (see “Dødens horeunge” and the latter stages of closer “Tågedans,” respectively).
Across the album as a whole, Geistaz’ika remind me of early Helheim, with a little Isengard sprinkled on the top. In their use of acoustic guitars and the guitar tone there, I also hear something of Opeth’s Morningrise, particularly on “Dødens horeunge.” A sprawling 11-minute track, “Dødens horeunge” covers a lot of ground, including a deliciously unsettling section as the black metal rasps scrape over the top of background choral cleans. Throughout Trolddomssejd’s 44-minute runtime, Geistaz’ika weave in enough melody and even the occasional hook to hold my interest. The trve black metal sections are just that, a return to a simpler time in blackness, conjuring snow-covered forests and ashen skies. Full albums of that bore me, however, so the variation on show from Geistaz’ika, breathing some warmth — or at least tepidness — into the icy tundras they evoke, is certainly welcome.
That said, a lot of Trolddomssejd is taken straight from what many bands have done before. While Geistaz’ika execute it very well, showcasing good songwriting skills and strong musicianship, what stops them from merely being imitators, 25 years late to the party, is that all-important sense of when to switch things up, or down, as the case may be. If you are going to be 25 years late to a party, you’d better have something good to offer the host and Geistaz’ika do. The mix on Trolddomssejd is a bit inconsistent, with some elements too high — most notably the rasped vocals — while others that I want to hear more of, the strong drum work in particular, which are often swamped by vocals and guitars. This isn’t a problem throughout the album though, which makes it more frustrating.
The mysterious Geistaz’ika have delivered a strong record here. They are hardly the first band to blend pvre black metal with softer elements, but they do so with skill, evoking an altogether more oppressive and brooding atmosphere in the act. Trolddomssejd is also a focused record, with little or no bloat. You sense this could easily have sprawled to an hour’s worth of material and utterly lost its impact but Geistaz’ika resisted that temptation and I’m excited about the next installment.