Svederna – Härd Review

There is a vast root system that feeds the evergreen Swedish black metal tree. Svederna, releasing their third full-length, are nourished by the richness of blackened soil. Big daddy Bathory watches all, followed by a rabble of miscreant off-spring in the form of Marduk, Dissection, and Watain. These are just the tip of a massive iceberg; there are countless black metal bands (and death metal is a different story altogether) buried in gold beneath the surface. Svederna, then, are modern flag bearers adding to the lineage. Their approach adds little flair or uniqueness to the Swedish approach. There’s melody, harshness and a constant conventionality throughout. Härd, meaning ‘hearth,’ is a hard hitting descendent of blackened royalty. 

Conventionality isn’t used as a negative here. Svederna are a proudly conventional black metal band for the most part. Evoking the riff-based folk-tinged elasticity of Svartsyn and Arckanum, there are always flourishes that show slight signs of veering from the black metal path before realigning with hard hitting aesthetics. Svederna’s black metal constancy is their strongest weapon. Openers “Den Arkaiska Rötan,” “Folkets Blod” and “Skuld Och Vita Knogar” have a twisting groove punctured by thick bass lines and rattling hi-hat interplay. All briefly descend into territories of instrumental playfulness before blistering off again, ashamed – it seems – of deviating from the blood, fire and death of their ancestors. The return to full-bodied black metal rather than twiddling off to fancy prog inspired realms is something of a relief, especially as Svederna pummel with such a confident and proud forthrightness.

Keeping everything in a tight shroud of violence are Primathor’s vocals: a constant storm of Swedish-tongued vitriol. There’s little in the way of nuance or hooks in Primathor’s delivery; his vocals are a permanent, thick migraine, the head of a writhing body spinning and spitting forever. Primathor has a cadence and clarity that sticks to a listener. Take his vocal rupture at the beginning of “Skuld Och Vita Knogar.” The small flourishes, not too invasive, not too melodramatic, create a sense of genuine aggressive energy that black metal needs at its core. Very rarely, for example, a howl emerges from the core of his soul, a wolf-like incantation recalling Viking victories long past. These small touches – not overbearing – add a texture that this approach requires. 

The same descriptors apply to most of Härd’s tracks: blistering, relentless, organic, folk-tinged, dense. At 48-minutes it can get repetitive but Svederna are trying to be nothing else. Subtle moments of change are present and these can get lost in the furore. A few moments stand out with greater vivacity. There’s a rockier groove at the heart of “Förtigen” and a sparser drive during its mid-section allows guitar strings to exacerbate their strained noise. This, again, is where the strength of the production job comes in. A heavy explosion after a spell of enraptured wailing from Primathor is a moment of real ‘oomph’ that rattles with wonderful depth and aggression. On the other end of the spectrum, “Templehard” and “Urkvedsljuset” are seething storms of black-thrash fury. Dense and unrelenting with subtle shifts and transitions that smother, they are upheld again by a strong, deep mix and organic, full-bodied vocals. 

There’s little in the way of pretension. An excellently balanced mix and production job makes Härd a record that’s easy to stay with. Conversely, Härd is a record that does fade into the background when assaulted by hundreds of new releases showing off their goods. There are a handful of impressive tracks here. There are also a handful of decent tracks that, although solid, don’t forge their own unique path. By the time the two closers “Varsel” and “Androm Till Skräck Och Varnagel” hit, deja-vu strikes. 15-minutes less and Härd would strike with a swift and unforgiving bolt of Swedish lightning. As it is, the storm arrives, slams, then lingers, its impact less violent. Nonetheless, this is a solid dose of black metal that nourishes Sweden’s majestic roots.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Carnal Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: August 28th, 2020

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