Tulus – Fandens Kall Review

I hate secret beef. Here I was, reviewing in a vacuum, thinking my terrible tastes didn’t affect anyone. It turns out that I had offended the unfuckwithable Dr. A.N. Grier. While it’s imperative we do our research on the bands we review, I somehow missed that Tulus is sister act to two particularly formidable Norwegian black metal acts: Khold and Sarke. While I appreciated the act’s three decades of black metal, I did not anticipate the spidery tendrils to other excellent veteran acts, all of whom I collectively curb-stomped with my thumping of 2020’s Old Old Death. Oops. It all comes full circle, cuz Tulus is back, baby.

For the uninitiated, Tulus has been around since ’91, 1996 debut full-length Pure Black Energy considered a cult classic of early black metal. Although taking a six-year break between 2000 and 2006, the trio has amassed six full-lengths and a compilation over the project’s career. While my experience with Tulus is limited, I criticized Old Old Death for its utter lack of progression since ’96. With seventh outing Fandens Kall,1 I don’t know if Old Old Death was a fluke or I was young and incompetent or they listened, but 2023 finds these second-wave veterans well.

My biggest criticism of Old Old Death was its paper-thin sound, that Blodstrup’s guitar was too clean to play with Crowbel’s thick and juicy bass, withering under his own formidable vocals. It has been addressed in Fandens Kall, with a thicker guitar tone, Tulus now has fight and bite from all angles. This makes for a lethal combination, with selections like the opening title track and “Slagmark” oozing serious groove, while “Lek” and “Allstøtt” take advantage of the kvlt vibe with filthy tremolo, thrashy pace, and plodding rhythms, and solos add a climactic feel to “Lek” and “Isråk.” Tracks like “Samuelsbrenner” and “Bloddråpesvermer” slow things down to an ominous crawl, focusing on acoustic passages and piano, respectively, to suggest solemn waters alongside big sprawling riffs, while closer “Barfrost” embraces the acoustic alongside Blodstrop’s ominous spoken word. Most intriguing of the bunch is “Sjelesmerte,” which takes on a nearly country vibe, a train beat and walking basslines injecting a jolt of color to the kvlt black. Tulus offers solid performances from all fronts, with formidable vocals, nimble guitar riffs, impressive bass, and Sarke’s solid percussion to attack the senses with second-wave insanity, enhanced by a more solid mix.

What sets Tulus back from truly shining with Fandens Kall is the same issue with its predecessor: lack of direction. While it’s a massive improvement over Old Old Death, where each song gets its time to shine, it nonetheless feels like a compilation of Tulus’ “best-ofs,” offering thrash-tinged second-wave black metal but little else. The subtle hints of experimentation may be divisive in themselves, but also occur entirely in the back half of Fandens Kall, making thrashy banger “Snømyrkre” stick out with its jarring kickass thrash riffs in context to the songs that utilize acoustic guitar, piano, or country tropes. This presents a bit of a conundrum: if experimentation only occurs in the second act, Fandens Kall would feel inconsistent; but as is, it makes an otherwise solid song feel overly simplistic by comparison. Otherwise, there are tracks that don’t stick as much as they ought to: the riff in “Isråk” gets old pretty quickly after so many iterations, the sprawling riffs in “Samuelsbrenna” cannot measure up to the acoustic passages, and the song pales in comparison to the more balanced piano inclusion in “Bloddråpesvermer,” while the riffs of “Allstøtt” need more fleshing out to make an impact.

Ultimately, I’m just nitpicking. Tulus is not about challenging your thoughts on second-wave black metal, but they’ll do a damn good job kicking your teeth in – improving everything that Old Old Death suffered from. Channeling the Darkthrone and Mayhem worship in a way that’s singularly kickass, leaving the kvlt shenanigans for Khold and the blistering speed for Sarke, Fandens Kall’s beauty is its simplicity and brief thirty-three-minute runtime. Roiling bass adds distinction to a relatively standard black metal sound, with just enough experimentation to make it go down smoothly. I was wrong about this band,2 not that Tulus needs my apology. Fandens Kall has my number.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Soulseller Records
Website: facebook.com/tulusband
Releases Worldwide: February 17th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Norwegian for “Hell’s calling.”
  2. Not about Old Old Death tho.
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