Svneatr – Chinook Review

Another day, another black metal album. Just like my daily bowl of Lucky Charms and cup of coffee, it will either be delicious or tiresome. Is it gonna be Starbucks’ ashtray blend or Trve Kvlt’s Diabolical Divinations roast?1 Is Lucky Charms gonna hurt that shady cavity I’ve got developing in my molars or will it delight with its blend of hearty bits and sweet marshmallows? It’s a toss-up – just like black metal. While I have history with Vancouver’s Svneatr, sophomore effort Chinook hopes to follow up 2018’s excellent The Howl, The Whisper, The Hunt with a cold, riffy second-wave shenanigans. Does Chinook live up to to the hype?

Svneatr is fairly new to the scene, having released their 2018 debut and an EP prior, with no label experience. The act consists of Opus Arise members drummer Matthew Logan (aka Aldrich), bassist Sean Hillman (aka Scariot, also of Ysgaroth and Thousand Arrows), and guitarist James Readman (aka Hengist), as well as vocalist/guitarist Brendan Barrett (aka Vitharr) from Hooded Vandal. While many other second-wave worshipers dwell in Darkthrone shenanigans with little variation, Svneatr has always benefited from a backbone of absolutely stellar rhythm performances and emphasis on riffs, akin to Master’s Hammer, Vredehammer, or Mortuary Drape. While not entirely unique, Chinook is a fantastic successor to The Howl, The Whisper, The Hunt, employing stellar performances all around that balance melody, fury, and riffs through its next-level songwriting.

I would never have guessed that Svneatr was a self-released group, as their sound is remarkably clean, especially for black metal. This bolsters the impact of the riffs as they bounce from melodic dreamlike plucking to head-bobbing kickass riffs. Tracks like “The Wind Stirs,” “Mourning Sun,” and “Erasure” feature menacing bass-heavy riffs paired with seamless transitions to melodic plucking and wild solos. Similarly, tracks like “The Consequence of Fear” and “The Veins of the Earth” are relentless blackened give-and-takes of Darkthrone-esque tremolo and dueling, meaty Rotting Christ-influenced riffs, outlined by wild solos. “Lavender” in particular is arguably the band’s most solid song to date, as its seamless transitions between the best riffs of Chinook and blackened fury are nearly perfect, as well as its melodies and clean singing being some of the most emotional moments of the album. Personally, Svneatr in many ways feels like a revenge game for Sean Hillman, as his stunning fretless bass performance in technical noodling and driving grooves is put to good use and his partners follow suit, while Ysgaroth offered a nonsensical clusterfuck in which he was the only highlight.

The most glaring flaw of Chinook is a matter of production. While its various instruments are impeccably produced and every note can be heard clearly, the two guitars exist nearly solely in the left and right channels independently. While this is great for dueling riffs or contrasting melodies, it can get overwhelming and lose impact if they only align every now and then. Otherwise, Svneatr‘s stumbling blocks are due to its comparisons. While they offer nothing groundbreaking, they simply perform the blackened arts to an impressive degree, so black metal naysayers will not be swayed. As such, while Vitharr’s vocals are vicious and powerful, they are perhaps the most run-of-the-mill element of the band’s arsenal, sticking to typical ferocious shrieks with a few gutturals (“The Consequence of Fear”) and limited dreary cleans (“Lavender”) for good measure. Finally, while drummer Aldrich offers a fantastically varied percussion performance, the snare tone is more subdued than the band’s debut, and is thereby not as thunderous or impressive as it gets lost in the mix periodically.

Yes, Svneatr is a black metal band, and the Darkthrone and Master’s Hammer worship is strong with this one. In spite of some minor setbacks, it manages to outdo The Howl, The Whisper, The Hunt by a significant margin, expertly balancing emotionally melodic overlays, kickass riffs, and blackened formidability, thanks to rock-solid performances from all its members and fantastic songwriting. Chinook, in spite of being an independent sophomore release, feels like the work of veterans. The contrasting channels in their production can get too much, and some songs fall to heavily into the Darkthrone ballpark hockey rink. But you can bet it’s Trve Kvlt’s coffee and some tasty marshmallow dreams today, bitches.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: svneatr.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/svneatr
Releases Worldwide: May 28th, 2021

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