Sarke could easily be considered a who’s who in metal – bear with me for a moment. On the front-line, manning the frost-tinged croak, you’ve got Nocturno Culto (vocalist, guitarist and bassist for Darkthrone). On lead guitars you’ve got Steinar Gundersen, the current bassist of ICS Vortex. On bass, guitars and drums, you have Sarke, the current drummer for Khold and ex-live member of Old Man’s Child. Last but not least, you have the lesser-known Anders Hunstad, a former live member of Satyricon. That’s what I would call a blackened mix of personalities! I won’t lie, when I heard there was a new Sarke poised to drop on the unsuspecting masses, I scrambled to get my hands on it before Steel Druhm could review the unholy hell out of it. So how does Bogefod hold up to the likes of past endeavours Vorunah, Oldarhian and Aruagint? Very well indeed. Sarke continue to evade the thorny stigma of being “just another black metal band.” Instead they’ve stayed true to their earlier work by combining atmospheric doom and thrashy black metal with traditional heavy metal and punky, latter period Darkthrone. Considering all the threads Sarke are knitting together the end result feels mighty cohesive, catchy and instantly accessible.
As “Taken” and “Blood of Men” unwind, you’ll hear that both tracks stick within Sarke‘s comfort zone. They’re fairly predictable, providing a safe start to Bogefod‘s concept. While not immediately apparent from the album artwork or the song title, Bogefod‘s concept centers around Torolv Bogefod, of the Norse classic Eyrbyggja. Bogefod‘s concept tells the tale of Torlov’s ugly death and his later resurrection. Once Torolv breaks free of his tomb, dead yet quite undead, he’s set on terrorizing the villagers causing nothing but death and devastation. Looking past the latter period Darkthrone influences that haunt both tracks, you’ll notice that “Taken” includes the mid-paced bluster of Urgehal, while “Blood of Men” goes on a wild Vreid-inspired joyride leading you right into the sweaty, bare-naked arms of some serious Taake adoration. Take that as a warning kiddies, joy rides never end quite the way you expect them to [Maybe you should avoid vans with “Free Candy” painted on the sides. – Steel Druhm].
It’s around the mid section of the album (so “Barrow of Torolv” through “Dawning”) that things get most interesting. A beautiful steel-string intro beckons you into “Barrow of Torolv,” staying for a brief spell, before gracefully entwining with Hunstad’s keys. The nightmare that follows is both harrowing and jarring, teetering on the fine line between life/death and desperation journeyed by Eudaimony. In the numbers preceding “Barrow of Torolv,” Nocturno’s delivery is closest to that of Tom G. Warrior (Celtic Frost), however as you become more immersed in “Barrow of Torolv,” it’s entirely conceivable you’re instead listening to Matthias Jell aka Azathoth (current frontman of Eudaimony, ex-Dark Fortress). “The Wicked’s Transient Sleep” is a herky-jerky ride that’s sloppy, fast and thrashy one minute (think Venom or Satan’s Wrath) and then as doomladen as only Celtic Frost can deliver in the next. It makes for an oddly endearing mix. “Burn” drags you back down to the depths of self-destruction where Eudaimony‘s sobering influence once again pushes through on a track that’s complex and more avant garde, sounding like something from the gentlemen of A Forest of Stars layered with melody that parallel Universal era Borknagar. Finally it’s the spellbinding delivery of the unidentified female vocals that soar over the acoustic melody in “Dawning” that give you a small and beautiful reprieve from the dark ride you’ve endured.
The remainder of the album passes in a blackened, thrashy, stop-start kaleidoscope and my only real gripes are that now and again the lyrics sound juvenile. The ongoing repetition of “ashes to ashes to mud” in “Sunken” for example, being the biggest and baddest of them all. I’m going to chalk this up to an ESL transgression and or poetic license. I sincerely wish the band had chosen to put a different foot forward by releasing an official video for “Barrow of Torolv,” “The Wicked’s Transient Sleep” or “Burn” instead of their chosen lyrical endeavor. Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that Bogefod‘s concept doesn’t play much, if any, part in my enjoyment of the album. In fact, Nocturno’s vague, croaked delivery makes it tough to buy fully into the album’s concept. This is some failure on the band’s part, but based on this comment by Sarke, I’m guessing the chilling moments will soon become clearer – “Both Sarke as a band, and the story Bogefod’s lyrics will take part in a movie called SAGA, where Nocturno Culto has a leading role.” The phrase “God forbid” comes to mind…
That said, I’ve largely enjoyed Bogefod. The tracks are predominantly short, they’re exciting and on first listen the album whirled past so quickly that for a few moments the buzz of silence caught me by surprise. Needless to say, I immediately replayed Bogefod and enjoyed it just as much the second time. Don’t forget to check out Sarke on the big screen at a theater near you!