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This is Kampfar’s first album for seven years, their last being 1999’s Fra Underverdenen. They have a new rhythm section consisting of bassist Jon and drummer II13 (yes, that’s his name…), but the core duo of vocalist Dolk and guitarist Thomas are still present and correct. Kvass (Norwegian for ‘sharp’) contains six tracks lasting a total of three-quarters of an hour, and all songs except ‘Ravenheart’ are in Norwegian.
Kampfar describe their music as ‘Norse Pagan Folklore Metal’, but it’s much more like the folkish black metal of bands like Burzum, Drudkh, Bergthron and Wyrd than Viking metal bands like Thyrfing, Amon Amarth or Månegarm. Kampfar’s melodic, mid-paced, well-produced metal is dominated by Thomas’ powerfully repetitious riffs, with the standout tracks being ‘Til Siste Mann’, which reminded me of some of the Blazebirth Hall bands like Forest and Branikald, and closing track ‘Gaman Av Drømmer’, which is the most upbeat black metal track since Drudkh’s ‘Sunwheel’, celebratory, major-key, and sounding bizarrely like Hüsker Dü (and why not?)! It’s a pleasant change to hear raw and passionate black metal played well and given a production which enables the listener to pick out individual instruments (even the bass,!), instead of the usual ‘necro’ mix with inaudible drums, vocals sounding like they were recorded on a Walkman during a blizzard etc. It’s even possible to make out the words, though Dolk’s growled vocals are resolutely harsh and flat in true black metal style.
Re-releases of the two earlier Kampfar albums Mellom Skogkledde Aaser and Fra Underverdenen are imminent, and with any luck should lead to a wider audience for this rather overlooked and underrated Norwegian band.