Ov Shadows – I Djävulens Avbild Review

Psychoanalysis was a truly revolutionary idea. Up to that point, it was believed that what you see, what you can experience with your senses – that’s all there was. But obnoxious motherfucker Freud1 came around and screwed that up. Suddenly we realize through him (in his diagnoses of traumatized World War 1 veterans) that the mind, the personality, and behavior is influenced perhaps by forces of which we are not necessarily aware. Carl Jung furthered this idea, proposing a system of interconnected subconscious archetypes that combine to form the personality. Universally shared within the self include the persona, the anima/animus, and, perhaps the most appealing to the metalverse and Swedish quartet Ov Shadows, the shadow – a collection of the darkest and most primitive elements of the human unconscious.

Ov Shadows, like blackened death purveyors Serene Dark, professes a theme of this psychological subconsciousness, in that the project is “about exploring and embracing the dark aspects that dwell within us all… an atmospheric Black Metal guided by chaos and darkness.” Embracing equally brutal and scorching textures guided by eerie and desolate atmosphere, sophomore effort I Djävulens Avbild2 paints pictures of abyssal darkness and icy emptiness. Ultimately, while it does little to challenge black metal stereotypes with its performance of tremolo, blastbeats, and tortured vocals, it enacts its second-wave worship with stunning ease and charisma in a listen that seamlessly evokes every mood worthy of its namesake.

Harnessing its various moods is a true highlight of I Djävulens Avbild, as frosty Coldworld guitar tones, empty Darkspace melodies, Trist-esque hypnotic repetitions, and the two-headed fluxes between scathing and dense of Dkharmakhaoz compile to create a truly dense and relentless listen. Tracks like “Den Eld Som Tär och Förvrider,” “Under Dödens Vingar,” and closer “Av Kunskap Krönt Till Gud” specialize in suffocating murk emphasized by scathing dissonance, the title track and “Spotsk” wallow in doom-laden eerie textures that grow and breathe organically, and “Blasfemiskt Crescendo” and “Anakoretens Gap” reveal cold tendrils of desolation through glimpses of crystalline melody. It’s no reprieve from the pummeling, mind you, but that’s what makes I Djävulens Avbild so refreshing: it’s undeniably atmospheric but it never sacrifices immensity and brutality, relying on its strongest asset: stellar songwriting. Ov Shadows succeeds in its emphasis on the simplistic, relying not on contrived ambiance or gaudy symphonic textures but on its chord progressions. Establishing a strong foundation of its second-wave effectiveness and utilizing hints of melody or dissonance to accomplish its various and subtle moods across tracks, the culmination makes its forty-three minute runtime feel more than reasonable.

The only setback to I Djävulens Avbild is its comparison between like tracks. While its respective moods are executed spectacularly and evocatively, often the latter tracks fall into too-similar territory as its predecessors and can’t escape comparison. For instance, the central dissonant melody of “Under Dödens Vingar” feels slightly too repetitive compared to the bulletproof “Den Eld Som Tär och Förvrider,” and “Spotsk” feels a tad like the Walmart brand of the title track. Further, Ov Shadows is also prone for scrutiny due to their relatively run-of-the-mill style: while it’s certainly a shining example of second-wave black metal, it never escapes the icy shadow of Darkthrone or Immortal. And while the moods evoked on I Djävulens Avbild certainly warrant the Jungian comparison, the lyrics do not necessarily create the theme the way that Serene Dark’s Enantiodromia does.

All complaints aside, Ov Shadows has created a hella tight black metal experience, with an abundance of moods and atmospheres accomplished through the second-wave tremolo, blastbeats, and rasps. These Swedes’ sophomore effort, like Gaerea’s Limbo, adhere to a style that bleeds amid its influences rather than worshiping them, utilizing a tastefully well-rounded listening experience that’s undeniably blackened but, above all, exquisitely written. Displaying the darkness of its Jungian theme caricature with surprising charisma, I Djävulens Avbild is a visceral and disturbing listen that benefits from its straightforward blackened palette and feasible runtime. While it may be marred by minor issues, it nevertheless deserves a cold black spot on your summer playlist.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hypnotic Dirge Records
Websites: ovshadows.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/ovshadowsofficial
Releases Worldwide: August 14th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Pun intended.
  2. “In the devil’s image” in Swedish.
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