If you’re into the Norwegian black metal scene, you may know bassist, guitarist, songwriter, Teloch. For those that don’t know, he’s the man behind Nidingr and responsible for guitars and songwriting on Mayhem‘s Esoteric Warfare. If you do know the man, you already knew that and also know he’s a member of the once mysterious—but now not-so-mysterious—black/thrash outfit The Konsortium, where he writes and plays bass alongside the legendary black metal drummer Dirge Rep. Together, they rip, shred, and tear shit apart, but not in the way a typical black/thrash group, like Abigail or Aura Noir, would do. Instead, The Konsortium uses the rasps and cleans of Arcturus and Nidingr, while adding a touch of folkiness. Not to mention the band’s ability to stack riff upon trashy riff on top of thick atmospheres and classic, Norwegian batterings. It’s a clever mix that makes Rogaland one of my favorite records of the year.
If you’re a fan of the band’s 2011 full-length, self-titled debut, you’ll notice a slight change. For one, Rogaland‘s title pulses with folk metal’s passion for culture and ancestry, which is not something that comes through in the debut. Not to mention the album’s nature-inspired (and translated) song titles: “Sea,” “Storm,” “Mountains,” and “The Forest.” Although I still wouldn’t classify The Konsortium as solely a folk band, Rogaland‘s theme proves to be a unique twist on the black/thrash formula.
“Skogen” is the perfect example of how they mix classic Norwegian songwriting with thrash and folk. After exploding forth via commands from a nasty, unpolished voice, the song charges up a steep incline. The building aggression sifts through a variety of thrash licks before finally settling on the best (around the 3:38 mark). But the ascent doesn’t stop here. It takes you further, engulfing you in a thick atmosphere of distant choirs and King Diamond-like falsettos. Finally, the tension breaks and Teloch’s Tool-ish bass puts the song to rest. “Skogen” is far more progressive than anything the band has ever written and is close to being my Song o’ the Year.
“Fjella,” “Stormen,” and “Hausten” nearly fit the glove worn by “Skogen.” Though none are as good as “Skogen,” there’re plenty of dueling vocals and King falsettos, pummeling riffs stacked on pummeling riffs, and black metal assaults that combine the first and second waves of the Norwegian variety. The first two are far more relentless than “Hausten,” taking the harsher side of “Skogen” and upping the ante. “Hausten,” while still enjoying a bone-snapping attitude, veers off into melodic Ihsahn-like falsetto segments and a mid-song transition that bleeds of Dissection.
Next to “Skogen” and “Hausten,” “Arv” and “Havet” are two other highlights; that standout in two different ways. “Arv” almost cuts its predecessor’s runtime in half while “Havet” almost doubles it. “Arv” is the simplest and most concise track on the album, but that doesn’t make it any less ball-busting than the others. Yet, it balances some of that with atmospheric choirs and folky vocal arrangements, as well as an “upbeatness” brought on by its thrashiness. Then there’s “Havet,” which spreads itself out over ten minutes. Within that sixth of an hour, it burrows into you with mid-paced black metal riffs and horns (akin to Celtic Frost and The Deathtrip) and rummages around inside you with a scope made of powerful clean vox and guitar solos. Then it bursts from the skin, exposing the open wound to saxophone, acoustic guitars, and a riff as classic to Norwegian black metal as Satan. It’s long and may not work for everyone, but it’s worth it.
Some tracks are better than others (with “Stormen” being the weakest of the bunch), but there’s no filler on Rogaland. Each track shares a theme of crashing waves, thundering storms, and the beautiful sounds of nature. Instrumental “Innferd” and “Utferd” open and close the album nicely and the entire thing is a continual trek through all the storms, seasons, and landscapes Mother Earth has to offer. Each song drags you deeper into its concept—much like how The Ocean‘s Pelagial sucks you in. Not to discredit the band’s awesome debut, but Rogaland‘s captivating folkiness and technicality is a pleasant addition to their black/thrash style. It’s too hard to tell with another seven months to go in 2018, but I suspect Rogaland might find a home somewhere on my year-end list.