Glemsel – Forfader Review

Glemsel (“oblivion”) have chosen a truly interesting cover photo for their debut full-length, Forfader (“ancestor”). I mean—I love it. Odds are, I would have picked up this album for review regardless of the musical style just to see how well the music matches the image on my right (your left). I am more than happy to judge a book, or an album, by its cover—that’s what it’s there for. Fortunately, Glemsel, who hail from Copenhagen, Denmark, play black metal, which means we are already compatible with one another. But while a picture may be worth a thousand words, it is not worth forty-seven minutes of music. That’s a different formula. So how well can Forfader hold up?

The first thing that stands out about Forfader is how very sardonic it sounds, which is not an adjective I often get to use in these reviews. At times, it almost feels like Glemsel is mocking their preferred scales1, sneaking in unexpected sharps and flats that allow their music to sound just a little bit “wrong,” which I put in quotation marks because it actually works out very well for them. “Mod Afgrund” is the earliest example of this contempt for tradition, working in a galloping series of riffs halfway through that, despite their relative simplicity, ooze atmosphere and contribute to the creeping feel of the whole. In this way, it reminds me of acts like Alkuharmonian Kantaja or Les Chands Du Hasard, where the sly, almost haunted melodies are front and center. By leaning on a straightforward setup and sound, Glemsel are able to create an album with personality and atmosphere, the kind that makes you think that someone is definitely standing behind you.

Of course, Forfader is primarily a black metal album, but while I think it succeeds very well on the atmosphere front, I can’t help but feel it falters a bit here. For one thing, there’s very little aggression. In itself, this isn’t a bad thing, but in such an emotionally charged album, it does come across as a missed opportunity. There are two listed guitarists on the band’s profile, but apart from the odd harmonized riff, it seldom feels like it. The difference in impact between a track like “Savn,” which opens on a big tremolo played only by the bass, and “Møntens Prædikant,” which lobs two guitars at you with some serious heft behind them, speaks volumes about how strong Glemsel‘s music is versus how strong it can be. Meanwhile, the rasps and snarls that make up the vocals add a distinct personality to the music, but are often dry and detached—well-performed, but stylistically mismatched from the sardonic, typically melodic music beneath. In a song like “Møntens Prædikant,” they work. In the quieter, more straightforward verses of “Det Gamie Må Vige,” they sometimes feel present just for the sake of being present.

Still, despite the segments of mismatched style, Forfader is peppered with moments of genuine excitement that showcase the band’s serious talent. “Møntens Prædikant” is a gem of a song, with a triumphant conclusion wholly enhanced by ethereal strings and strong dual guitar work. “Det Gamle Må Vige” has an epic feel to it with a long, beautiful resolution that tricks me into thinking the album is over every time.2 “Mod Afgrund” is far from my favorite song here, but I love the tremolo leads four minutes in, purely because of how well Glemsel can pull off that “wrong” sort of melody. All throughout the album, I find moments that I really like, and I can only wish they were more frequent.

It’s these moments that make me want to keep a close eye on Glemsel, despite my ultimate conclusion that Forfader is a mixed bag. I don’t love it, and I hope that the band is able to tighten up their sound a bit better than they have here in the future. But every time I listen to the album, I know which moments I’m looking forward to, and they’re well worth it to realize again. I look forward to the Glemsel album that’s able to keep it up all the time—that album will be something spectacular.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Vendetta Records
Websites: glemsel.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Glemsel
Releases Worldwide: March 18th, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. I honestly shouldn’t be making this comment, music theory baffles me every time I make an honest attempt to understand it.
  2. Unfortunately, this makes the final eleven minutes of the album feel very long.
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