ALBUM REVIEW: Svartsyn – Khold

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Over the years, Oslo’s KHOLD have established themselves as one of key Norwegian acts to rise to prominence after the genre’s initial second wave began to die down towards the turn of the millennium, and have gone on to cement themselves as one of the nation’s premier acts, right up there alongside many of the genre’s heavyweights. Being exponents of quality over quantity, the gap between the band’s records has slowly but surely grown lengthier since the mid-00s, with each new album feeling all the more of a spectacle as a result. Their latest and seventh album Svartsyn, for example, comes close to eight years after the release of its predecessor, Til Endes, and stands as perhaps their best output to date, oftentimes being on par with the benchmark set by some of the best of their earlier work.

Apostel is a strong start to proceedings, with thick guitar and bass work coupled with authoritative drumming and acidic vocals all lending a muscular, dark feel to this song. It’s a powerful piece of black metal that sets the listener up for the rest of the album incredibly well. Ødslet Blod keeps the steady pace and robust guitars of the previous track, but manages to inject some intricate leads into the mix along with a brilliant bassline and lots of impressive drum fills which take the monolithic approach of the preceding offering and add an energetic undercurrent that helps to make it sound livelier than the opener. Evig has a confident yet brooding swagger to it, with the drums and guitars providing a solid groove, and the bleaker hooks that come courtesy of the eerie leads and the visceral, varied vocals imbuing everything with a sinister edge that helps to elevate it significantly.

Skarpretter retains many of the hard rock elements of the previous song, with powerful guitars and drumming crafting a weighty, driven sound as the harsher vocals and some subtle guitar flourishes anchor this song in black metal. It’s an impressively catchy song that is as dramatic as it is intense. Helligdom Av Døde proves to be an ominous, slow-burning affair, with haunting, dirge-like guitars and minimalistic musicianship starting things off in an inauspicious fashion before gradually morphing into an absolute monolith that makes great use of a vast, cavernous sound to establish a more cinematic feel. Compared with the fairly lengthy track that came before it, Manngard serves as a visceral and chaotic take on the band’s style, with hellish vocals, grating hooks and cacophonous drums all adding to the unhinged, though incredibly tight and focused, sound. It’s fast and punchy, and all the more memorable for it.

Dystopi is a melodic iteration of the more rhythmic sound of many earlier songs, with slick riffs generously spread throughout, along with an energetic drum performance that underpins everything with a cymbal heavy edge that adds a hypnotic, almost primal side to the music, making for another stunning high point for this record. Demonens Bok is another short, sharp shock of old school black metal with a palpable rock influence. It features some extremely inspired and eclectic vocal deliveries, ranging from shriller, caustic moments to deeper, borderline guttural passages which complement the monstrous bass sound perfectly.

The huge, rumbling Villvandre follows and manages to take the already meaty sound to even greater heights, lending this a chunky, thunderous sound, with only the vocals providing an acerbic counterpoint that carves expertly through the mix to command the listener’s attention. Bryt I Udåd Ut, with its droning guitar sound and funereal tempo, is essentially classic Norwegian black metal with a heady dose of BLACK SABBATH thrown in, making for an engrossing and effective track that injects a powerful change of pace into the record, but also concludes matters on a suitably bleak and grandiose note.

As stated at the start of this review, this is possibly KHOLD‘s most impressive record to date, with much of the material standing out for all the right reasons, even when held in comparison with much of the band’s classic output. For fans of an old school black metal sound, there’s a lot to love here, and many of the tracks on here are great examples of how to create music that pays homage to the genre’s heyday without becoming derivative or feeling stale. The huge, tight production, hard rock inflected songwriting and varied approach to the musicianship on all fronts all make for an incredibly cohesive and lean record, with little, if any, fat to be trimmed from it. And above all, it brilliantly illustrates that KHOLD are perhaps one of Norwegian black metal’s most underrated and fantastic acts.

Rating: 9/10

Svartsyn - Khold

Svartsyn is out now via Soulseller Records.

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The post ALBUM REVIEW: Svartsyn – Khold appeared first on Distorted Sound Magazine.

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