Tsjuder – Helvegr Review

Tsjuder is easily one of my favorite black metal outfits, with 2004’s Desert Northern Hell being one of the most outstanding black metal records ever. If you don’t believe me, you’ve never listened to it.1 Riding that second wave of Norwegian black metal, Tsjuder doesn’t just deliver black metal. They deliver black metal that’ll rip your toenails off simultaneously. It’s been eight years since the band released their lukewarm Antiliv album, and I’ve been craving the nastiness that makes them so great ever since. While many will argue Antiliv was a great album, it lacked the energy the band typically brings to the table. No matter who this duo hires on the drums, everyone gives it all to each release. But I didn’t quite feel that on Antiliv. It doesn’t matter if you disagree because Helvegr doesn’t give a rat’s ass about our opinions.

Tsjuder’s use of every instrument makes them more enjoyable than many other black metal bands. At times, the guitar is all you need to care about. Other times, the bass leads the charge and adds its sinister rumbling to a track that would be otherwise worthless. And you’ll even find tracks where the drums steal the show—flailing each limb to create something unique and not just keep the offbeat rhythm. For Helvegr, longtime contributor Christian “Bartender” sets his sticks down to let Jon Rice (ex-Job for a Cowboy) jump behind the kit. And surprisingly enough, he’s got the chops to throw down with these grizzled Norwegians. Not only that, but he gets many chances to surface and bring life to a track.

Two such examples are “Surtr” and the title track. The first combines a perfectly-executed Dissection introduction with tendinitis-inducing 1349 savagery. And even with a seven-minute runtime, it never stales. When you think one riff is about to meet its quota, another one appears. And the whole time, the drums adjust accordingly, never allowing the pace to slow. “Helvegr” is another lengthy number, but it uses its length to convert the front-end snail’s pace into a walloping back half. The front end alternates between a Watain-ish atmosphere and a headbangable groove, setting up the suspense that will inevitably break your balls. When it does, the drums add layer upon layer until they go from a steady pace to occasional blast-beat to all-out recklessness.

The best of the bunch are “Prestehammeren,” “Chaos Fiend,” and “Gods of Black Blood.” “Prestehammeren” is a monstrous track that proves Tsjuder is still one of the best. That black/thrash riff that permeates through the song damn-near separated my spine from my skull. But it and the relentless tremolo picking are only part of the song’s whole. Without notice, both disappear in favor of a vicious death charge that abruptly ends the track. “Chaos Fiend” uses Blood Tsunami-esque overlapping shrieks and barks with Satyricon hatred to slap your ass into tofu. Like “Prestehammeren,” it never lets up and never disappoints as it cruises from riff to riff. But my love for “Gods of Black Blood” is because it feels like something that should have been included in Mayhem’s infamous De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. It feels old and sounds old, and that’s just fine with me.

As with all great Tsjuder records, Helvegr is unapologetic and gives absolutely no fucks what came before it or what will come after. It’s another gnarly, kickass ride that reminds me that when I get on a Tsjuder kick, I can’t listen to black metal for a while. First, because it’s hard to find black metal I enjoy this much. And second, because my ears are bleeding. But I would have enjoyed it even more if they had clipped off the last two tracks. While “Faenskap og død” works with its unsettling, high-pitched riffage, it doesn’t go anywhere. And the closer is a pointless instrumental that, while being the calm-after-the-storm, doesn’t fit the album. Those aside, if you like Tsjuder, you’re gonna love this.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: tsjuder.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/tsjuderofficial
Releases Worldwide: June 23rd, 2023

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