Kampfar – Til Klovers Takt Review

I remember the end of 2015 like it was yesterday. There I was, putting my top ten together with ease and confidence and, at the same time, listening to Kampfar’s then-new album, Profan. Multi-tasking on my list, making Jørn puns, and taking notes for my review of Profan, I immediately realized I was fucked. It took only one spin of Profan to tell me I’d start from scratch. I should have known. I mean, what was I thinking reviewing a Kampfar album and not considering its inclusion in the holiest of all lists? For those of you posers that don’t know, Kampfar is untouchable in the pagan/black metal realm. And they’ve been ruling it with a bloody battle axe for almost 30 years. Now, they are back again to threaten my year-end list with Til Klovers Takt. But, unlike Profan or even Ofidians Manifest, Til Klovers Takt explores all that is Kampfar. It plays out more like a best-of-release than a standalone record. Each song explores songwriting structures from the band’s past and present. Yet, somehow, it’s brought together in a strategic tracklist. Welcome to pagan metal heaven.

Til Klovers Takt has all the modern flavors of Kampfar—including unhinged black metal assaults, melodic atmospheres, and vocal arrangements as big as Valhalla. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, no band incorporates these elements as well as Kampfar. While distant violins break your heart and blistering-fast guitars drive to the apex, bellowing Viking chants support Dolk’s desperate rasps. And that’s not one song; that’s all of them. Each track tries to one-up the other as the album approaches the inevitable epic climax. How the band does it, I have no idea. But the intensity always claps like thunder in the closer, finally breaking the tension built up for the last forty-five minutes. It satisfies my old bones better than any sexy massage ever could.

And, boy, does it get started in a hurry. Opener, “Lausdans under Stjernene,” wastes no time with elaborate introductions. Like Kampfar of old, it unleashes a tasty black metal riff that snaps your kneecaps and sprawls you on the floor. “Lausdans under Stjernene” is classic Kampfar in all its building, crushing, ominous glory. “Rekviem” also hits you where it hurts. But, approaching the album’s end, the layers begin to form. Those booming Viking vox drive the song from the background as Dolk delivers some seriously nasty rasps. As the song progresses, a new layer adds to the previous one. From gnarly atmospheres of churchy key work (that brings to mind Dimmu Borgir) to passionate string interludes, the song stomps to the mountaintop. As the guitars and drums approach their final build, the desperate vocals scream to the nighty stars.

While “Fandens Trall” has some truly remarkable guitar work—at times, venturing into old-school Mayhem territories—”Urkraft” and closer1 “Dødens Aperitiff” are the best. “Urkraft” begins with eerie, distant vocals and booming bass before careening into a swirling mass of guitars and drums. This Primordial-esque plod eventually transitions to absurdly-fast guitars and blastbeats, supported by the increasing vocal presence. First, bombastic cleans support the rasps. Then, Viking metal chants bring the song to its mighty conclusion. As with so many Kampfar closers, “Dødens Aperitiff” pulls out all the stops. I can only describe the atmosphere as massive and damning. Even when the song halts to make room for clean guitars, doom fills the air. When it explodes into a maelstrom of guitars and drums once more, there’s no stopping it. The rasps spit like a rattler, and the cleans fill your ears with passionate pain. In its final minutes, I find myself pulled in. Taking my fingers from my keyboard, I can’t help but sit back in my chair and absorb it.

Til Klovers Takt also holds up to repeat listens. Not because you need to discover every nook and cranny but because you want to. As I said in my review for Profan, I will always be partial to older Kampfar. But this fantastic quartet continues to draw my attention away from albums like Kvass and Mellom Skogkledde Aaser and direct my attention to the new Kampfar. After a dozen listens, I have to put Til Klovers Takt alongside Profan. The atmospheres, intricacies, and calculating songwriting continue to blow my mind. I will never know how these guys continue to produce remarkable albums after all these years. For those looking for an album to fill a void in your year-end list, look no further.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Indie Recordings
Websites: kampfarornorway.bandcamp.com | kampfar.com | facebook.com/kampfarofficial
Releases Worldwide: November 11th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Told you.
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