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Coming off the heels of Arysk's debut demo, I expected something a little less oppressive from Jarnvid. And, once again, my preconceptions were dashed upon the cruel and jagged rocks of reality. Jarnvid plays a very dark, dungeonlike form of black metal similar to bands like Morte Incandescente or certain LLN artists, with just a pinch of early Darkthrone-style punk/rock influence. It's not fun, though. Don't get that idea. Jarnvid is genuinely grim and dark as hell, with, as previously stated, an oppressive atmosphere that isn't matched by many artists these days. Long stretches of tremolo bleed into melodic, swinging, Mütiilation-style section, which in turn become sludgy funeral dirges complete with hollow Vikernes screams and washes of minor-key guitar. It is not good-time black metal.
I wouldn't quite call this 'suicidal', but there is a sense of depressive atmosphere. It's not quite as self-pitying as it is tortured and mangled like a sociopathic burn ward victim. Everything about the music is harsh, be it in the raw aesthetics, the overtly emotional occasional melodic riff, or in the obscure ambiance that bookends the demo. Take the title track, with its ripping, thrashy black metal main part which subsumes into organ-driven, majestic ambiance with an atmosphere right out of 'Remains Of A Ruined, Dead, Cursed Soul. It's the sort of thing Pantheist would make after a really, really bad acid trip. Or maybe that It would make after a good one. Either way, both sections are stirringly effective and actually interact with each other to create a whole where no part is weak. That's the crucial part: most black metal, when attempting ambiance (or even atmosphere within black metal itself), ends up falling on its face in one of the areas while excelling in the other. Jarnvid avoids that by being able to write songs.
The music itself: capably played, arranged, and produced, with a really good grasp of aesthetics and how to use them. The production is raw but just about perfect for these songs in particular, with that rehearsing-in-a-dungeon feel that bands like Sargeist have mastered. The playing is all top-notch, even though the music isn't really acrobatic on its own. Like Arysk, the music is almost entirely riff-based, and the subtle shifts between melancholic and misanthropic do a great deal to make this an exciting and consistently interesting listen. If nothing else, Jarnvid never fails to keep the listener interested with songs that, while rooted in the traditional sound of black metal and the basic melodies that it depends upon, are still very well written and professionally composed.
Jarnvid aren't doing anything new, but they're doing the old stuff unbelievably well for such a young band. Already I could see Jarnvid getting signed to a medium-size black metal label and cracking out an LP full of great, dark music. So go and get on with it, damnit! Really good black metal for all fans of the genre; try not to miss it.