Holy moly. I was busy as hell the last few months of 2019 and it’s only been in the past few weeks that I’ve stopped feeling like a cockroach flailing around on its back. Fortunately, I now have an ideal soundtrack to decompress to in the form of Jordablod, a Swedish black metal project whose 2017 debut Upon My Cremation Pyre was one of my favorite albums released that year. I’m largely not interested in traditional black metal anymore, but Pyre was something different, an album that eschewed the typical “atmospheric” or “melodic” trappings to conjure something truly unique. The music was vast, haunting, psychedelic, and emotional, with an atmosphere that feels more enthralling the more I reflect on it.1 The Cabinet of Numinous Song is the band’s second album, and in addition to plunging listeners back in the otherworld created by Pyre, it also serves as a terrific continuation of that sound.
Jordablod make black metal their own. Their core sound is otherworldly, at once cosmic and cavernous, like entering an underground chamber that’s so vast you wonder if it stretches on for eternity. Opener “A Grand Unveiling” is aptly named, slowly exposing listeners to this world via echoing ambiance and metallic strumming that almost sounds like it’s coming from a harp. Soon the band explodes into rushing blasts that sound like post-black metal, with aching melodies appearing, disappearing, and then reappearing to reinvent themselves. The overall sound is majestic and aggressive, with raspy vocals that seem to come from everywhere and riffing that seems to come from elsewhere. “Hin Ondes Mystär” continues in the same vein, beginning with post-rock plucking before moving into surging riffs propelled by a rhythm that sounds like a malicious waltz.
Just like with the debut, I find it all captivating. With traditional black metal, you know the band is trying to convey evil, with Cascadian black metal, you know the band is trying to convey the majesty of nature. With Jordablod, I’m not sure what the deeper meaning behind it all is, other than that it feels grandiose yet personal. Yet as enthralling as it all is, the band don’t get totally lost in the mood and do manage to deliver some direct moments. The second track “The Two Wings of Becoming” rages like traditional black metal from 90s Norway, soon escalating into a massive gyrating tremolo line and a terrific squawking solo. Following an intro of what sounds like dainty piano, “The Beauty of Every Wound” features verses propelled by a great stomping groove before concluding its six-minute runtime with an immense melody.
Structurally, these direct riffs add welcome variety and keep things interesting. The penultimate title track also mixes things up, serving as an escalating instrumental that steadily builds from metallic strumming to tumultuous riffs before a plump, twirling bassline brings the whole thing to a grand finish. If I have one quibble about Song, it’s that there aren’t quite enough moments that readily stick in the head. I know I enjoy closer “To Bleed Gold,” for instance, but if somebody put a gun to my head right now and asked me to hum one riff of it from memory, I’d be seconds away from having my brains painted all over my office wall. Fortunately, the production is lush and vast, with plump basslines and a rich sound that perfectly fits the band’s aesthetic.
I had to look up what “numinous” meant when I grabbed this album for review, and in doing so I realized the word seems to perfectly fit what Jordablod are all about: “having a strong religious or spiritual quality; indicating or suggesting the presence of a divinity.” Divinity is something greater than the world around us, and yet such a feeling can only come from within oneself. In retrospect, perhaps that’s what Jordablod are trying to convey. If so, I couldn’t think of a much better way to do it than the 43 minutes that comprise The Cabinet of Numinous Song. In all, Song is a weird and wonderful album that shows promise not just for the band, but also the decade before us. This is black metal that excels beyond its genre and is sure to satisfy the curious metal fan in all of us.