Melodeath was shaping up to be the second most disappointing genre this year for me. Though there were several big-name entries, few have stuck with me. Amorphis was awesome at first, but for reasons I’ve yet to decipher I quickly lost interest. Omnium Gatherum suffered a similar fate, but with their inferiority to Amorphis playing the culprit. Kalmah was close to something special, but they were undone by repetitive songwriting. Luckily, two saviors swooped in and delivered big time: Mongol, with The Return; and Svavelvinter—go ahead, say it five more times just for fun—with Mörkrets Tid.
Mörkrets Tid is pure magic from start to finish thanks to two unlikely companions, Erik Granström and Christian Älvestam. Erik Granström, creator of several modules and novels for tabletop RPG Drakar och Demoner (Dragons and Demons, translated, a game similar to Dungeons & Dragons),1 adapted his 1987 campaign Svavelvinter to manifest the lyrics and story behind Mörkrets Tid. Christian Älvestam (Solution .45, ex-Scar Symmetry), a multi-talented musician responsible for all instrumentation and programming on the record, partnered up with Granström because he adored the Svavelvinter campaign, having played it in his youth. Each collaborator poured their very souls into this one record, and the commitment to that end pervades every moment. This makes Mörkrets Tid a compelling adventure.
I mentioned the lyrics were written by Erik Granström. What I did not mention is how amazing they are to behold. Everything is in Swedish, but you can follow along in English if you visit the album’s Bandcamp page. I would bet my life savings that Granström is responsible for the translation as well, because the English lyrics are just as wonderful to read as the Swedish ones are to hear (e.g. the first verses of “Den Gudomliga Väven”). In both languages the lyrics have a unique cadence and character, enhancing the story.
Christian Älvestam storms barns on Mörkrets Tid with the best songwriting of his varied career. “Döds Ände” and “Vanderland” comprise one of the best one-two-punch openings of 2018 with infectious choruses and indefatigable energy. Come to think of it, every song has a five-star chorus somewhere, soaring above the clouds and stealing you away from the Earth. Älvestam is a fantastic vocalist to boot. He possesses spirited tenor cleans and a wide range of blackened death roars, giving variety to the proceedings. As for the guitar work, the man riddles the album with riff after glorious riff (see “Glasmannen”). Using those riffs, Älvestam propels the longer songs forward and strengthens the shorter ones. Furthermore, he often assigns leads as a counterpoint to the vocals to great effect, inviting the listener to observe the nuances as they unfold.
I am quickly closing in on my word limit, so I’ll conclude by saying this: buy Mörkrets Tid. It deserves every iota of attention you can muster. Because the simple truth is that Svavelvinter might never make another album like this.
Tracks to Check Out: “Döds Ände,” “Vanderland,” “Glasmannen,” and “Shum Shaula”
- But with a system that’s more inspired by Runequest. Interestingly, Sweden has developed a very strong and unique RPG culture and adopted tabletop RPGs quite soon after D&D became a phenomenon. This is one of the reasons that D&D proper has never become popular in Sweden. But in recent years, there have been a lot of great Swedish RPGs that have started hitting the market in English, including Mutant: Year Zero and Trudvang. – Extremely Nerdy Metal Guy ↩