Kampfar – Ofidians Manifest [Things You Might Have Missed 2019]

I can’t remember the last time Kampfar disappointed me. Grier begins to count his fingers, evaluating every album the band has released since 1997. Oh, that’s right: never. “Why are you introducing a TYMHM this way?” “Are you trying to freak me out or bury my hope?” Maybe. But the real reason is that I’m a dick and I like to fuck with you all. It’s safe to say Kampfar has never disappointed me and never will. Sure, they, as well as every band out there, have pinnacle moments and mediocre ones. But, as a whole, I can listen to any Kampfar album at any time and I’m happy. And, though I’ve made it clear that the band’s older material is still my favorite, 2015’s Profan is proof that their big, bombastic, pagan/Viking sound has sunk its teeth into me. And, like its predecessor, this year’s Ofidians Manifest keeps this Pagan Train rolling.

Ofidians Manifest continues on the track introduced by Mare and Djevelmakt and honed by Profan – the post-Thomas era of accessible, powerful, Viking metal. The back-to-back openers, “Syndefall” and “Ophidian” cement this claim with rasping vox and ripping riffs that partner with seeping melodics and monstrous choruses. The belting of “as the rowers keep on rowing!” of the latter is enough to send chills up my spine and infect me with goosebumps. On the other hand, songs like “Natt” and “Skamløs!” light the frozen forests of Norway ablaze. A signal sent from one warrior the next, these two are black-metal berzerkers. “Skamløs!” never lets up its relentless attack, be it black, smoldering riffs or meloblack transitions. But it’s not without its beauty, as a gorgeous piano piece closes the track. There’s also tidbits of a piano in the mighty “Natt,” but these appear different. Acting as a bridge between the black-metal flurry of the first half of the song and the crushing black/death chug of the back, a short piano section teases you before it’s ripped from your grasp. As if someone were to say, “You like the piano? Fuck the piano.”

As on previous releases, Kampfar is big on guest appearances for their experimental excursions and Ofidians Manifest is no different. “Dominans” finds the creepy, powerful, and unmistakable vox of Agnete Kjølsrud adding depth and passion to the track. Without her voice, this track wouldn’t be as memorable as it is. “Eremitt” is another that borrows voices from the band’s Norwegian collective. This time, the voices lend their oomph to the song’s gigantic Viking choirs. If it wasn’t for the band’s irresistible urge to close the album with the biggest and boldest song, these two tracks would share the throne. But “Det Sorte” is a heart-wrenching masterpiece that’ll rip all traces of holiday happiness from your soul.

I’m on the fence on which is better: Profan or Ofidians Manifest. So, I won’t waste my time deciding. Instead, I’ll state the obvious: they’re a perfect pair. The songwriting, the vocal variation, and the strength that builds across these seven songs are why I loved Profan four years ago. That said, Ofidians Manifest‘s added guest vocals result in some unique and memorable moments, in comparison to its predecessor. Regardless of who you feel sits atop the other, Ofidians Manifest is another great achievement in the band’s storied catalog.

Tracks to Check Out: “Dominans,” “Ophidian,” and “Det sorte”


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