Svartkonst – Black Waves [Things You Might Have Missed 2020]

What do you get when you cross Watain circa Lawless Darkness with what’s commonly been referred to as Entombed-core? Svartkonst, and it rules. Black Waves is the solo project’s second record and has none of the hallmarks of a sophomore slump. Compared to its predecessor Devil’s Blood, Black Waves has better songs, riffs, vocals, and production — an improvement on literally every front. That’s not to say the debut was bad, but rather to reinforce just how good Black Waves is.

When “Death Magic” opens the record (and your living room pit) up, you’re transported to a hypothetical world where Black Breath decided to crank out a tune after listening to a bunch of Watain and did a bang-up job of it. “World Ablaze” is basically the inverse, a track led by the Watain style of black metal darkness but bolstered with the hammering force of Black Breath brought to the forefront in select places. It’s an exciting and energetic mixture, and Svartkonst brings out the best in both facets. The silly pretensions of Watain are jettisoned to embrace the force of Black Breath, while the blunt edge of Black Breath is sharpened with the melodicism of Swedish black metal via Watain.

This isn’t a mindless melodic mosh-fest though — Black Waves is unique and special, elevating itself above the commonplace and merely good. “Stray in the Dark” doesn’t accelerate beyond a deliberate trudge but allows the black metal and Entombed-core to mingle and create consistently engaging and weighty riffs throughout. Closing number “Black Waves” acts as a contrasting bookend to opener “Death Magic” by being way more focused on Swedish black metal but importing the Entombed-core heft as “Death Magic” imported the Swedish black metal melodicism. It’s a great way to close a record, achieving an air of finality and a determinedly unified artistic expression. The impact of the music is aided by a forceful and clear production and a guitar tone that Watain might achieve if they used HM-2 pedals.

While I’ve used few bands to describe the sound of Black Waves, I should note that Svartkonst’s component parts are greater than that sum, and Svartkonst is greater than the sum of its component parts. Svartkonst is not a pale imitation of its influences but manages to capture a special part of the essence of each and allow each influence to increase and decrease in a charmingly playful manner. And yet, this is still a meticulously structured record, a true passion project that Rickard Törnqvist has clearly invested much time and talent into. His influences are doubtlessly wider than what I’ve named, but far as my record collection is concerned it fills the niche I’ve described as no other album can. It’s an exciting niche, one which I think many readers here would want filled, and I’m happy to say that Svartkonst has it cornered. I’m not sure how to make a better record of this type, but I’m excited to hear Mr. Törnqvist try on Svartkonst’s third.

Tracks To Check Out: ”Death Magic,” “World Ablaze,” “Black Waves”

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