Svabhavat – Black Mirror Reflection Review

I’m not sure when I became so jaded. I sometimes show albums and promos to my wife, and she’ll sometimes shiver and be all, “ooh that sounds evil!” Don’t even get me started on my parents, who I swear for a time believed I was possessed. What used to be evil and blasphemous is now frowny panda men who grimace way more than most people and pretend to play guitar in a trash can. Gleeful clichés run rampant through fields of blackened tremolo, croaky rasps, and hokey programmed drums, and nothing scares me anymore. I wanna be scared, dammit. With a cover like that, will the American Svabhavat do the trick?

Svabhavat is a new duo from the American Pacific Northwest, Black Mirror Reflection their first release. They profess a “cold ‘n cruel” style of traditional second-wave black metal in the ilk of Darkthrone, Mayhem, and especially Katharsis, so you can expect much of the same here: blast beats, shrieks, and icy raw tremolo. Svabhavat takes it a step further, adding a decidedly haunting edge of dissonance and doomy repetition reminiscent of the scathing offerings of Deathspell Omega or VRTRA. Ultimately, while Black Mirror Reflection finds itself firmly entrenched in the standard second-wave worship and the band’s consistency issues are rampant, Svabhavat offers solid black metal for the listener fed up with the fluff.

Truly, what separates Black Mirror Reflection from the millions of offerings proffered by corpsepainted hordes is hitting that sweet spot of dissonance, haunting atmosphere in sustained melody, and raw-but-not-too raw riffs, much like Katharsis‘ 2003 classic Kruzifixxion. Opener “Mysteries of the Odious Path” is a solid opening, utilizing dissonant melodies, doomy plods, and deep gutturals to make a particularly unsettling listen. “Great Tiamat, Filled with Corpses” and “Abhicaara” offer more upbeat interpretations, balancing scathing melodies with unrelenting tempos. Closers “Aghori, Flame of Knowledge” and the title track are also unique takes, as guitar melodies seamlessly shift from melancholic to dissonant.1 They are beautiful at times, contrasting with the dark sting that precedes them, though they never compromise the album’s dynamic pummeling. While it can be argued that Svabhavat channels too much Katharsis worship or the warped psychedelia of Icelandic groups like Misþyrming or Illkynja, these Yanks focus on rawer textures in their Deathspell Omega-dissonance-meets-Mayhem-thinness, feeling decidedly colder than European groups of the same breed. The warped melody remains consistent across the thirty-seven-minute runtime, providing a potently empty atmosphere to round out its second-wave blasting.

Sometimes, however, Svabhavat‘s use of dissonance becomes misguided. “Chalice of Poisoned Souls” is the most guilty, as its central awkwardly dissonant-but-not-quite melody brings the album’s momentum to a screeching halt. In spite of similar track length, this oafish riff causes blackened time to slow and corpse-painted eons to pass. It’s a shame, too, because Black Mirror Reflection‘s lack of originality is compensated by its unrelenting attitude and solid songwriting, making “Chalice…” feel like an incredibly untimely derailing. Because it feels as though black metal artists are under heavier scrutiny for dime-a-dozen Transylvanian Hunger worship, a glaringly awkward track only heightens the album’s lack of originality by bringing the blackened fun to a screeching halt. In this way, if Svabhavat were to remove the guitar melodies, they would sound nearly identical to the How to be Kvlt for Dummies template set by Darkthrone and Mayhem — and there’s a thin barrier between respect and mimicry.

Overall, however, in spite of a single track and a style that feels generally standard, Black Mirror Reflection reflects a tastefully disturbing atmosphere that never lets up on intensity. Svabhavat‘s melodic dimension is an appetizing element, channeling eerie dissonance and yearning melancholia with seamless precision. It may not frighten in the way that Katharsis, Darkthrone, and Mayhem have and may do little to step out from those formidable, legendary shadows, but Black Mirror Reflection remains a solid “cold ‘n cruel” listen that rarely overstays its welcome and hints at greatness to come.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Eisenwald Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 30th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. The acoustic guitar with disturbing atmospherics is a nice touch.
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