Sunken – Livslede Review

I love albums that make me feel cold. Hamferð’s Tamsins likam has that effect; regardless of environment or actual temperature, listening makes me feel as though I’m wrapped in darkness, walking through the dead of winter. October Falls’s The Plague of a Coming Age has a similar effect. These albums are prized in my library. In a non-menacing way, they conjure darkness in the most comforting way possible. Always I’m on the lookout for more, and today, I have found some. Hailing from Denmark, Sunken release their second album, Livslede, which roughly translates into “a profound and lasting discomfort with existence.”1 To summarize: it is dark, it is emotional, and it is fantastic.

Sunken play a brand of black metal that is a bit tricky to define. It’s definitely black metal, mind you — blast beats, shrieking, and tremolos dominate the bleak landscapes, and a sense of restrained fury bubbles beneath the surface. But moving deeper, there’s a lot of clear influence from other styles of the subgenre. This is not atmospheric black metal, but does have atmosphere, borrowing from acts like Winterfylleth and Wolves in the Throne Room. It isn’t symphonic or melodic, but there’s a definite keyboardist’s presence, with shimmers and textures in a vaguely Mistur-esque fashion (sans organs). Similarly, this isn’t raw black metal, but instead is just fuzzy enough to maintain a fiery edge from beginning to end; it reminds me of Infera Bruo’s latest in that sense. And it’s not depressive black metal either, but make no mistake, this is an album for brooding nights and dark days. Have I dropped enough names for you yet? The bottom line is, Livslede is a tough record to define, and its style is very much Sunken’s own.

But the content of Livslede speaks to a band well past the early stage of a sophomore record, and instead paints Sunken as the masters of their own sound. Over the course of four songs and forty-three minutes, Livslede is a journey into cold rage and heartfelt despair. “Ensomhed” (“Loneliness”) kicks the album off in earnest (after a brief introductory track) with furious blast beats, anguished screams, and a slow but sure rise in emotion and energy that persists throughout twelve minutes that fly by like six. When the keyboards join in earnest towards the end, the sense of weary triumph is perfectly executed. Throughout, the song’s peaks and valleys seize the heart and demand your full attention. At times vicious, at times melancholy, and always despairing, this song is the album template, and a sure sign of good things to come.

The first time (of many times) I listened through Livslede, I worried initially that Sunken’s sound would become repetitive. After all, crafting a powerful melancholic black metal tune is challenging, but doable. Making forty minutes go by smoothly with a jagged production, fuzzy guitars, and unintelligible screaming, on the other hand… a different story. So when “Delirium” began, I was basically overjoyed. Here, Sunken take a step back and employ a slow-burn approach to their style that would do the most solemn of funeral doom acts proud. “Delirium” showcases the band’s patience, opening with a simple bass line and plucked, ethereal guitar notes, channeling an atmosphere that reminds of Enshine. When it finally does peak and the black metal returns, it’s crushing, larger than life, and triumphant in bleak beauty. Throughout the album, the sound never wears out its welcome; Livslede is the ideal length to carry out its lonely journey.

Before I grabbed Livslede from the promo pit, I headed over to the Sunken Bandcamp page, and saw the lyrics for “Ensomhed” available. All in Danish, but I was undeterred, and lobbed them into Google translate, just to get an idea of what the band was about. I made it as far as “The meaning of life is nowhere to be found / Only empty promises of hope and joy” before I’d claimed the promo for my own. Even literally translated, the lyrics packed a punch. And the album itself is very much the same way: dense, distant, and unforgiving, but also cathartic, cold, and powerful. This is the black metal I’ve been craving for a long time. My recommendation is to listen to it the next time you hate the world. It may just help.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Vendetta Records
Websites: |
Released Worldwide: September 18th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Thank-you, Wiktionary.
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