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Depressive and atmospheric, melancholic and beautiful, monotonous and slow, sharp and cold. All these epithets are about this superb album called "Rakbladsvalsen" by Hypothermia. You know, I have always been a big fan of such chilling music that carves your soul and your mind similar to a razor cutting your flesh. These breathtaking melodies are maybe a little bit repetitive during the songs but they don't make you bored or something like that. This staggering release captivates you from the first chords to the finale, and even the title song being kinda protracted won't compel you to turn off the music. Also, Hypothermia strikes with their original beautiful primitiveness. All of their releases are richly saturated by this primitive art. I mean, you'll never find some complex passages, riffs, or melodies, but that's the main fact why Hypothermia is so alluring to me. It really engages many people with its simple beauty.
"Rakbladsvalsen" starts with the lingering "Del I". It consists of two parts. The first part is the outset and the outcome of that track at the same time and the second part is the peculiar culmination in the middle of the song. The second song is kind of "optimistic", if I could say this word about the style presented by Hypothermia in their works, and you can certainly notice that "Del II" is much faster as opposed to the other stuff on "Rakbladsvalsen". The third song restores you to the depressive hedonistic mood by its negative and melancholy. The last track is a real masterpiece, a real triumph of this simple primitiveness I spoke of above. Hypothermia strikes again and again with this "winning trick". "Del IV" is uncomplicated acoustic strumming, but still bewitches the audience. Afterwards the album comes to its end, leaving your soul desolated and drained.
Summing this up, I must notify that it is only my opinion about this release. Probably somebody has other notions about Hypothermia, 'cause everything depends on personal tastes and preferences. Yes, I agree that "Rakbladsvalsen" is not as great as albums issued by the giants of depressive black metal like Nachtmystium, Leviathan, Shining, or Armagedda, but such music still rages wild in my heart while I am listening to it.
Depressive/Suicidal Black Metal (DSBM from here on in) is my favorite genre, there's no denying that, there's so much emotion and negative thoughts associated with it, it's some of the ugliest metal you will find (which says alot, with metal being an ugly genre within itself) and it relies so much on the listeners interpretation of the music, you cannot 'pretend' to enjoy this music, you either do or you don't. When I find a band such as Hypothermia, every emotion is drained a thousand times over and every negative thought is amplified to unfathomable amounts. This is truly a gem in the metal underground.
Rakbladsvalsen is different than previous Hypothermia releases. The production is different, which is noticeable from the beginning, not necessarily better; I enjoyed the thick bassy sound on their previous efforts, it just gave off a chilling aura or darkness, pain and death (as cliched as that sounds, it really did), the production on Rakbladsvalsen gives a more 3D effect to the album, the guitar's riffs are much easier to interpret and the drums are much more audible and authentic sounding. Of course the vocals are audible, and fucking magnificent.
The album essentially sounds as if it's one long, repetative song. Sounds bad, I know. But as all DSBM is, this album relies strongly on the listener. If you let it take you away, you'll be in for the most painful experience of your petty life, if you judge it right away, i.e. "dis is 2 reptativ", you'll be bored out of your mind. It'll take you into the void, on a spiritual journey so to speak, and fucking hell, it's amazing.
Essentially, this album seems to be one long song broken up into four sections ('dels'), as each song possess the same emotions and even carrying over the same notes, chords and riffs. The only real difference between each song is that Del IV is a clean played electric guitar. While the others are played with distortion. The album, just as much DSBM does, relies almost completely on the listener's interpretation of the music. If there was no emotion in this release, four repetitive songs, lasting about an hour long would just be sheer torture.
I can't give a brief description of each song, but I can give a summary of all of them; they are mentally draining, they physically painful, they produce emotions that cannot be described. The guitar tone is thin with alot of gain and treble, the drums are simple throughout the entirety of the album and the vocals are performed to the best of Kim's ability (and that's saying alot!). Incredible, incredible album - although, it's not be for everyone... and this isn't even Hypothermia's best work.
As if you needed even more evidence to realize that I have a huge fucking boner for Swedish DSBM, here it is. Sure enough, my second favorite album of the year so far is another sorrowful mother fucker from Sweden, writing some soul rottingly dark music.
Where Nae'blis is twisted, sad, and just flat insane, Hypothermia is BLEAK. The name really fits here, because Hypothermia is not just cold, it is deathly cold. Intense imagery goes along with this music and it involves long periods of misery in uncomfortable places. I will go more into depth on that later, but before you read on you should know, this is some hope destroying music if there ever was any.
The style of black metal Hypothermia plays almost strikes me as drone, minus the sludge. The key here is that it is not boring, as drone is to me, yet Rakbladsvalsen takes each riff and repeats it into oblivion. You may not see how this could possibly be a good thing, but trust me, it definitely is. The hypnotic factor of this music is no small thing. If you sit down and listen to the droning, harmonically flat riffs, it is almost impossible to not get drawn into a miserable trance, and I'm not trying to be cliche when I say that it conjures images of dying of starvation in an endless desert, or freezing to death on the slopes of a vast snowy mountain.
The guitars exercise very little variety because it is not needed. They have a lazy distorted sound, almost indifferent sounding, like it doesn't matter if you notice the treble or the bass, the pitch or the timbre. Many of the riffs also hover on the edge of melody, but any thoughts of "happy music" are dispelled by the utterly bleak and tortured screams of Kim Carlsson. One of my favorite vocalists in metal, I don't feel like I need to elaborate on him. Simply put, his screams are heart-shattering. I consider myself quite the drum critic, mostly because I hate most drumming performances on albums. Hypothermia has the type of drums I would normally hate, that is, they are very normal, lots of snares and cymbals and all that boring crap we have been hearing for 50 years. However, they also have a kind of dead or lazy feel, like it doesn't matter if you hear them or not. Because of this, you forget they are there, which makes it that much easier for them to hypnotize you. And they do. I am somewhat baffled myself at how that works, because the drumming really does suck, but it fucking works. What to say? Who knows.
The songwriting. Obviously I am a sucker for the epic. I can only think of one 30+ minute track (not including other Hypothermia tracks!) which is as entertaining as "Rakbladsvalsen Part I" and it isn't in this review. Entertaining probably isn't the right word, mesmerising is better, but regardless my attention does not waver over the entire 34:25 of the first track. That's not to say there is a lot going on necessarily, but believe me folks this song gets the fucking job done, as you will come out of listening to it feeling like part of your life just got drained away. The remaining of the 4 songs are a sort of post-composition to the first track, each more or less highlighting a certain depressing aspect of the main theme.
I'm not 100% full of good things to say about this nasty fucking album. There is one specific thing I find myself wanting, and that is a vocal performance similar to that of Kim Carlsson on "Svartage Passager" from the album Kold. Don't get me wrong, the vocals are great, but a little bit too sparse for my liking. Kim is such a wicked screamer he should do it more often.
DSBM does not get much better than this. Take it or leave it. You'll be much happier if you leave it, that's a promise.