Oddly enough, when I was dropped Svärta‘s Sepultus, I immediately thought of last year’s debut from Madmans Esprit. Not that the Swedish black metal outfit is completely comparable to the gothic/black metal band from South Korea, but they share their love for disrupting standard black-metal frenzies with perfectly executed transitions of melody and pure sadness. Recalling Madmans Esprit‘s Nacht is also the result of the fact that these two releases come to us from the A Sad Sadness Song label and that many of their melodic moments come in the form of depressive and anguished emotions that bands like Shining built a career on. For all of these subtle comparisons, the biggest differences between the two releases are that Svärta‘s music is structured around classic Scandinavia blackness and its melodic qualities have less of a footing in the gothic realm and more in the world of harsh, blackened chaos. The result is less sexy and soothing, but the effect remains the same; it drags you roughly through the ups and downs of an auditorial nightmare that imitates the extreme emotions found in a solid horror flick.
“Bråddjupets kall” kicks this record off with some classic blackened riffs, tremolo picking, venomous rasps, and solid drum work that feels old-school, organic, and effortless. Following the three-minute mark is where the charm of Svärta sets in. The song comes practically to a stop and a hypnotizing beauty surfaces that only a band like Cobalt could replicate with equal effectiveness. From here the song builds back up from its beautiful cleans into the frenetic nightmare it began life as. All of these elements are devastating, beautiful, and somehow necessary. Much of the album continues in the same stead, but each song has a uniqueness that requires the utmost attention and an absolute absorption to appreciate the multi-layered simplicity within.
Other examples of beauty come in the form of the DR13 wonder that is “Gift.” Its placement as the third track of this six-song album gives it a good intermittence from its two chaotic precursors and drags you deep into a Shining-esque depressiveness that mingles with the electronic fondlings of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York. It’s a beautiful piece, truly effective in its delivery. Following this soft piece up with the calming intro of “Våndans högborg” is also a genius move. Again, the drumming is an organic element that just feels right. After the softness comes the storm as the song explodes into a heavy fucking BM apocalypse, with melodic atmosphere that makes treading through oppressive murk and demonic growling enjoyable. The song then tip-toes away quietly via a Cobalt/Tool interlude. The closer also shares similar structures as it ascends and descends over eight minutes before closing with sustaining organ chords, a massive BM atmosphere, and an organ outro pulled straight from the archives of classic radio shows.
Perhaps the only song that doesn’t connect would be “Hädanfärdens sigill.” It’s long and feels long, with a mid-point interlude much like the rest of the album but this time it isn’t execute d as effectively and trimming is required. The closer and “Förruttnelsens ljuva nektar” also come dangerously close to overplaying their hand until the melodic elements come into play, but and you can’t help but breathe it all in and the latter’s Gorgorothian riffs and Gaahl-like cathedral cleans reverberate as if from an altar. And being back-to-back at the end of the album make “Förruttnelsens ljuva nektar” and “Det sublima lidandet” truly memorable.
This is a great album with some unique and clever elements that leave me almost as satisfied as the oddity from Madmans Esprit did last year. The production is decent with a DR6-7 score (the DR score is slightly bloated by the DR13 of “Gift”) and the delivery feels clean and natural. It has a good feel and one that many BM bands have been trying to master for years. Sepultus‘ success is due to its finesse and ability to be spontaneous in its delivery, and I can’t wait to see what these mysterious musicians come up with next.