Svarttjern – Shame Is Just a Word Review

The moon is full, the candles in my bedroom are flickering, and the neighborhood feels like it’s burning to the ground. The sirens scream up and down the street, the homeless behind the dumpster are cursing at each other, and the drug dealers in next door’s complex are firing warning shots into the air. My bartending friends say the place is overcome by angry, aggressive creeps. And my colleagues at the psychiatric ward say the patients are howling at the moon. It’s like a re-imagining of Carrie, minus everyone’s favorite whipping boygirl. Yet, it’s a perfect night for the chaos that pours from my speakers. Having never heard of Svattjern before, I emerge myself in their entire discography this evening. I begin with Misanthropic Path of Madness and Towards the Ultimate; unable to pull myself away from the unforgiving black metal assault. Ultimatum Necrophilia continues the cannonade, tossing in dirt-flying incendiaries. Then a cloud covers the moon and the street goes quiet with anticipation for Dødsskrik. A record that sees the band fuck around with their style as 1349 has with theirs. Unfortunately, it’s with mixed success. Will the moon stay full for this years’ Shame Is Just a Word?

Dødsskrik—and Ultimatum Necrophilia (to a lesser extent)—was such a drastic turn from the band’s norm that I hadn’t a clue what to expect from Shame Is Just a Word. Would the band return to the chaoticness of the debut or continue with the disjointed coagulation of influences that is Dødsskrik, I asked myself? Quick. Take a vote. Three… two… one… you’re wrong. Svarttjern has decided to go a different route for this new release. This time it’s black-thrash, with many o’ hint of the punkish, old-school qualities of Darkthrone and Celtic Frost. For me, I would have guessed something in the realm of black ‘n’ roll, considering most of the band—minus vocalist HansFyrste (ex-Ragnarok)—has joined forces with Nattefrost in Carpathian Forest. But, what do I know? Let’s explore.

Two of the eight songs that sound the most like thrashier, tougher renditions of Darkthrone pieces are “Ment til å tjene” and “Ta dets drakt.” This has more to do with the vocals from HansFyrste, as he alternates between his classic rasps and the unhinged qualities of Nocturno Culto. The former is a punky little piece that expels much of that attitude toward the end when it transforms into a killer black-thrash lick. The latter track is a ball-busting black thrasher, right from the get-go. It toys around with a few ideas but stays its course, getting nastier as it goes. The follow-up to “Ta dets drakt,” “Frost Embalmed Abyss,” also has its Darkthrone-ish moments. Combining its melodic qualities with the desperate vocal varieties of Aldrahn and Culto. But this piece is denser than the others, experimenting with moody tremolos and sinister atmospheres while taking you on a ride that puts a bomb of a thrash lick between your legs. It’s one of the roundest pieces on the disc.

The title-tracked closer is also rounded but more of a head-cocking piece than “Frost Embalmed Abyss.” After opening with the grooviest riffs on the album, it delves into the dark alleys of death and thrash. While “Ravish Me” is a simple building piece that takes its catchy chorus and ripping riffs and pushes them bigger and harder as the song progresses, the closer shifts up from the groovy lick to a monstrous thrash charge. It’s a killer transition that is only hurt by the weird robot voices at the end. But nothing is weirder than the song that proceeds it. It’s the one and only “Bonded by Blood,” by Exodus. Why is this necessary? No idea. Is it a decent cover? Yeah, sure.

In turns out, of all the releases from Svarttjern, this one is the most fun. It has the mind-twisting diversity of Dødsskrik but with more focus on a theme. That theme being thrash. And that’s made clear with the inclusion of Exodus’ pride and joy mixed into the tracklist, rather than be a final bonus track. While the energy is there, crushing eight surprisingly-dynamic tracks into a mere thirty-five minutes, it’s nowhere close to Misanthropic Path of Madness and Towards the Ultimate. I know that’s the point, but SIJaW doesn’t work as well as its predecessors. Though this is a surprising disc from the band, it’s still an enjoyable one. If for no other reason than for its thrashing simplicity.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Soulseller Records
Releases Worldwide: January 17th, 2020

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