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Unfortunately my experience with this legendary band is limited, and my first exposure to their music was the slightly less than intense “Haudankylmyyden Mailla”. While this album has its charm, it does seem to put me to sleep in some parts, and could benefit from a richer guitar sound and more imaginative songwriting. “Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne”, however, is a breath of fresh air, as it is genuinely innovative and original black metal, released in 2005, at a time where other bands have mostly been rehashing old ideas or trying to fuse superficial elements from other genres while ultimately losing the true spirit of black metal.
The production here is perfect for dark and raw black metal, as the guitars take on a trebly sound, but without becoming weakened or quiet in the mix. The bass is audible and effective, and the drums are powerful without being an annoying and constant blast. The vocals are an aggressive black metal scream. Based on this description you could be forgiven for thinking that this album must be generic (not necessarily a bad thing) with nothing new to offer. The truth is that they have embraced the old black metal spirit, but with riffs that have grown on me with every listen.
The first track “Vihan Tie” is critical to whether the listener becomes engaged (entranced) by this album, as it contains a repetitive riff that is revisited throughout the song, and could be interpreted by some listeners as annoying. To me, it gives the music a buzzing, hypnotic feel. After this relatively accessible introduction to the album, “Musta Temppeli” begins to grind its way into the soul of the listener. The opening riff is dark and infectious, serving a similar purpose to Mayhem’s “Freezing Moon” opener. The bass interacts well with guitar here to create a drone effect. After this introduction, the song speeds up to a climax which causes significant neck snappage; it’s amazing what moods can be invoked in the listener by playing a single note very quickly, but not so fast that the drums and bass can’t punctuate each note and drive it into your skull, and not without gradually moving across the musical scale. This song is what dark and evil black metal is all about.
It would be redundant to continue with a song-by-song description, as the themes and song structures remain similar throughout the album. Since I love the aforementioned structures, this is welcome, and the riffs throughout the album are diverse enough and have occasionally imprinted on parts of my brain during my days at work. It would be an offence against art if I didn’t mention the instrumental track “Zythifer”, however. This is one of the better instrumental tracks I have heard on a black metal album. No keyboards or random samples of wind blowing here! This is a slow and eerie progression that seems to creep up on the listener with the same organic and earthy guitar tones that have been used throughout the album, and I have never found myself using the skip button here, as it seamlessly continues the mood and themes of the previous songs.
Musically, the main strength of this album is how the bass interacts with the guitar tone, simply following it at certain times, but at other times diverging and providing contrast. The tempo varies throughout each song, from slow and grim passages, to climaxes of blistering speed and evil, but these tempo changes are not with such regularity that the songs become disjointed. They are sparse enough to make an impact, and the band is willing to repeat a riff for a good two or three minutes where warranted. There are even some rather warm and charming “black ‘n’ roll” style riffs that fit well.
I would enthusiastically recommend this to all black metal fans, but acknowledge that people who find constant “hammering” of drums following guitars note for note irritating (as in Nokturnal Mortum’s “On the Moonlight Path”) or who find Darkthrone’s meandering effort of “To Walk the Infernal Fields” quite lame, may not enjoy “Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne”. I, however, find it to be quite brilliant and diverse.