Stortregn – Impermanence Review

Every year it seems that in the midst of all the doom, sludge and black metal clogging up my arteries, I find that one album of fast, technical, brutal sci-fi themed metal that I can’t stop listening to. Recent output by Xoth, Æpoch, Beast of Nod and the mighty Archspire have flayed my face meat and chilled my soul with surgical guitars and the unknowable horrors of the cosmos. In 2018 I discovered Swiss band Stortregn through their fantastic third full-length Emptiness Fills the Void. Despite its title, the album absolutely burst at the seams with blackened, thrashy tech death glory that never sacrificed melody for brutality. The cold, dark vacuum of space sounded thrilling in their capable hands. Three years later, Stortregn has moved from the diverse roster of Non Serviam Records to tech death specialists The Artisan Era for their fourth LP Impermanence. When I heard lead single “Cosmos Eater,” I confess I was slightly underwhelmed. It was predictably tight and well executed, but less melodic and idiosyncratic, more generically tech death. I worried the label move may have somewhat homogenized their sound.

It turns out my concerns were completely unfounded. There is indeed a new focus on technical death metal and all the bouncing, heavy riffs and trigger drums that entails, but Stortregn‘s ability to weave melodic black metal, thrash swagger, and even a little traditional speed metal into their frenetic space-borne assault shines across Impermanence. Album bookends “Ghosts of the Past” and “Nénie” display the band’s knack for floating epic twin guitar harmonies above the unrelenting rhythms like a colorful nebula in the inky void. Black metal tremolos spice up “Moon, Sun, Stars” and “Timeless Splendor,” with the latter featuring an eyebrow raising “Huughh!” before launching into a trad speed/thrash intro. Romain Negro’s dual black/death vocal approach is judiciously employed while leaving plenty of room for the constant guitar heroics of Johan Smith and Duran Bathija. Between the soaring solos, classical acoustic passages and the constant weedly-weedly gallops, Impermanence is a showcase for their considerable skills and a precursor to the debilitating carpal tunnel and arthritis they’re sure to suffer later in life.

For an album that has a lot going on in every song, Stortregn wisely place their most memorable and melodic songs like tent poles to give Impermanence symmetry. Centerpiece “Grand Nexion Abyss” joins “Ghosts of the Past” and “Nénie” for a beginning-middle-end trifecta of highlights, but the center jewel shines brightest. Every element that makes this album the best that I’ve heard so far this year is present in “Grand Nexion Abyss,” from the acoustic intro to the twin guitars to the blackened blasts, there isn’t a note out of place. Best of all, the song feels emotive and dramatic in ways tech death often doesn’t. This is head, heart and hand working together in a genre that usually skips the middle bit. It can take awhile to digest each of these songs given their complexity, but “Grand Nexion Abyss” is immediate, and if need be, can be held up as a rosetta stone to the rest of the album.

I mentioned above my slight disappointment in “Cosmos Eater,” and while it remains the least interesting track in isolation, Impermanence is structured to be taken as a whole. The evenly placed peaks at beginning, middle and end are joined by songs that flow naturally into each other and dispense with the spaces between. This doesn’t mean there isn’t clear definition, however. It’s impressive how sharply each song establishes itself despite being a natural continuation of the last. The only breath taken before a plunge is between the title track interlude and the album showstopper, and it makes “Grand Nexion Abyss” all the more exciting when it hits.

Wake up from hypersleep early and facing decades alone? Sentient black hole warping reality? Lieutenant Fletcher requesting entry to the airlock after a space walk but you look over at the nav station and he’s right there and they both start saying they’re the real Fletcher? If I have to face the horrors of deep space, I’ll do it with Stortregn‘s Impermanence blasting on a ship-wide channel.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: The Artisan Era
Websites: stortregn.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Stortregn
Releases Worldwide: March 12th, 2021

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