Svarttjern – Dødsskrik Review

Svarttjern - Dodsskrik 01I’m a sucker for HansFyrste’s ghastly vocal style, he could probably read from the phone directory and I’d be very okay with it. The bug in my ear took effect around Ragnarok’s Malediction and it only got worse when I discovered Svarttjern’s Misanthropic Path of Madness and later release Ultimatum Necrophilia. Thankfully it’s a solid 2-years beyond the release of Ultimatum, which means we get another shot of Svarttjern, decked out in all their bullet belt and corpse paint finery. I’ve had my ear to the ground and there’s not too much being said about Dødsskrik other than that it trails their tour with Behemoth, Cradle of Filth, Inquisition and the now defunct In Solitude, and that Svarttjern plan on “wreaking havoc” once again, with their new record. That leaves me with a burning question – will Svarttjern continue the aggressive direction of Ultimatum Necrophilia or will Dødsskrik see Svarttjern incorporating the elements of their tour-mates, steering them in a new direction?

The show gets on the road with the aptly titled opener… “Intro.” It’s barely a song, and instead more an uncomfortable mix of cloying industrial noise that feels like a living, breathing organism switching from side to side while looming over a battle beat. This could easily have served as the opener to Carpathian Forest’s Strange Old Brew or on Nattefrost’s Blood and Vomit. “All Hail” follows on, and you’ll quickly realize how much Dødsskrik is starting to feel like a throwback to something from Carpathian Forest’s Defending the Throne of Evil. HansFyrste’s vocals are a mix of croaked clean singing, corpse-like screams, cocky exhibitionism and wretches that hint at a lung more outside than in. His chorus consists of “All hail Satan” repeated a bunch of times, nothing particularly inventive there folks, but it’s ear-wormy none-the-less. Fjellnord’s guitar rhythms are mid-paced and so overly repetitive they can’t help but weld themselves permanently to your memory. Grimmdun’s drum-work doesn’t feel overly complex, mostly coming across as competently mechanical, getting the job done. Svarttjern aren’t doing anything that bands like Carpathian Forest, Taake and Darkthrone haven’t done before.

“Admiring Death” again feels like a hybrid of past offerings by Taake et al, and as you progress, you’re struck by how much more engaging the guitar work feels on this track. The percussive nature of the riff perfectly melds to the drumming, and it’s at this point that the album starts to feel more exciting. “Blessed Flesh” and “Det River I Meg” both stand out as the strongest tracks on the front half of the album. After an aggressive start, “Blessed Flesh” displays a dainty melody, tiptoeing with Taake-like stealth in the background nicely contrasting the main blackened riff. Musically, vocally and lyrically the track reaches one of Dødsskrik’s harshest climaxes before finishing with the kind of black ‘n roll back-sass I’d expect from a band like Vreid. “Det River I Meg” is the half-way point and the biggest surprise of all. On the off chance you’ve had Dark Angel’s “The Promise of Agony” on your mind, this little river should flow with some familiarity.

Svarttjern - Dodsskrik 02

The back end of the album passes in a blur, again reminding me of past offerings by Taake and Darkthrone. The last half is dominated by “Dødsskrik” and “Acid Dreams” – They’re the gifts that just keep on giving! The opening bass riff of “Dødsskrik” sounds razor sharp and when combined with the grossly puked vocal intro, the track develops into the kind of nasty shit that makes your skin crawl and you can’t help but feel slightly unclean just for listening. It’s aggressively likable though and even the frivolously delivered black ‘n roll mid-section does nothing to take away from the hostility. Less vocal theatrics, more straight-forward accent-drenched singing, drum-work that’s simple but all encompassing, thick and heavy in delivery, bass-work that adds depth and a perfect length make the track a winner. “Acid Dreams” bring it all to a close. Built around a subtle but very Behemoth-like melody, the track takes on a intensely bizarre life of its own before winding up with truly mutilated vocals.

Dødsskrik is a competent offering with some very definite high points and a production quality that plays right into the hands of the music. Warm enough for a light fuzzy hiss, sharp enough that vocals and instrumentation (including the bass lines) sound engaging, full and undemanding on the ear. Based on the direction of Ultimatum Necrophilia, I guess I hoped for a bigger, badder and nastier release from Svarttjern. It feels like Dødsskrik plays it a little too safe at times, leaning on too many generic sounds between the few distinct high points of the album. That said, if you enjoyed any of the bands mentioned above, The 3rd Attempt’s recent Born in Thorns or you just enjoy HansFyrste’s outrageous vocal contributions, you’ll be mostly pleased with what Dødsskrik has to offer.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Soulseller Records
Releases Worldwide: April 29th, 2016

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