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Høstmørke - 88%

Noctir, May 31st, 2010

1995 was a very busy time for Fenriz. In a very short span of time, albums were released from Darkthrone, Storm, Neptune Towers, Dødheimsgard and his Folk Black Metal side-project, Isengard. Some would say that he was spreading himself a bit too thin, but the effects of this would not be seen until the following year. As for Høstmørke, Fenriz managed to deliver exactly what fans of the Vandreren demo were looking for.

"Neslepaks" starts the album with the same clean vocals found on the previous demo, quite similar to the style used on Nordavind, as well. Of course, this is a solo album, with Fenriz handling everything. The only involvement of outsiders comes from a couple brief vocal additions from members of Dødheimsgard. Musically, this is quite similar to songs like "Vinterskugge", though the feeling is a little darker. There is also some implementation of harsh vocals on this song. It's rather mid-paced, using the standard beat found in some of the Viking-era Bathory albums. Admittedly, Folk Black Metal is not my area of expertise, so I have little else to compare it to. Some have complained about Fenriz's clean vocals, but they sound powerful and well-delivered. The lyrics are in Norwegian, and one can detect a certain level of confidence in his vocals. He knew exactly what he wished to achieve and did it quite well.

"Oven til kosmos’ endeløse tidsrom skjenker vi den siste død"

The next song is "Landet Og Havet", which is very brief and pro-Norway in its lyrical approach. Of course this refers to the land itself, not to the government. It's not political in any manner. This consists only of vocal tracks, with no instrumentation. I imagine that it may be some traditional folk song, but this is unknown to me.

"I Kamp Med Kvitekrist" is another mid-paced song that is very similar to the opener. The sound quality isn't so great, giving the impression that this was taken straight from a tape, without being mastered. There is a slightly harsher edge to the vocals, at certain points, to give an added sense of aggression. Some of the background melodies are reminiscent of "Naglfar", though I wouldn't place this song in equal standing with that one.

This is followed by, what is essentially, an instrumental, "I Ei Gran Borti Nordre Åsen". There are vocals, but they seem to be utilized as merely another instrument, as I don't think there are any actual lyrics. The feeling is kind of dark and dismal. One almost gets the impression of people marching into a battle that they know they will lose. Certain death looms on the horizon, yet they must face it anyway. They are not afraid as they continue on toward their grim fate. The women and children weep as the men go off to war. They know that they'll never see them again, but fate cannot be denied.

"Over De Syngende Øde Moer" begins with a riff that wouldn't have been too out of place on Panzerfaust. Fenriz hits higher notes than on previous songs, really showing his range and conveying a lot of passion. This all adds to the epic feeling of the track. As the others, this is fairly slow and features sone really nice melodies that are dark, yet therein lies the beauty. It is easy to get swept away by this song, lost in its haunting atmosphere. This is definitely one of the highlights of the album.

At this point, the whole feel of the album shifts as we encounter "Thornspawn Chalice". This one is an epic, mid-paced Black Metal song. The vocals are very harsh and tortured, adding to the dark atmosphere, displaying that Fenriz can really pull this off pretty well. The lyrics seem to have been written long before this album was recorded, as they bear many similarities to those from the early period of Darkthrone. The folk-like rhythms are no longer present and the overall sound is as ugly and raw as that found on Panzerfaust. One could almost say that this song should have been saved for Total Death, as it would have surely raised its value. After a few minutes, the pace picks up and Fenriz unleashes one of the last brilliant tremolo riffs that he'd ever come up with, apparently. While this song really goes against the folk style of the earlier tracks, it still manages to keep within the same realm and this one riff certainly makes it worthwhile. This is the longest track on Høstmørke, as well as one of only two with English lyrics. The clean vocals mixed with the harsh ones, near the end of the song, creates a brilliant effect that one must simply experience to understand.

"Who fills their chalice with Thornspawn visions
Embrace symbols of That Night without end"

"Total Death" is the one song that doesn't fit in as well. It's a rather short, fast-paced, Black Metal song that has a lot of similarities to Darkthrone, but wouldn't really fit on any of their albums (except for the one of the same title), due to the strange riffing that is employed during certain parts. However, others riffs here utilized are right up the alley of any fan of old Darkthrone. As with the last song, one has to wonder why Fenriz didn't save this one for the next L.P. from his primary band.

Høstmørke should please those who are into other projects that Fenriz has been affiliated with. If you're a fan of pure Folk Metal, I can't say whether or not you would enjoy this as my knowledge of that particular sub-genre is almost nonexistent. The only thing I might compare it to, in atmosphere alone, might be the Viking-era Bathory stuff. It really doesn't sound anything like that, but it manages to convey a vaguely similar feeling. This is, more or less, something you simply have to hear for yourself.