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‘Mare’ is the fifth full-length album from Kampfar, one of the most consistent bands around. They’ve never really provided a ‘wow’ album, but every one of their releases has been solid. You can trust these guys to create a good, enjoyable black metal record. ‘Mare’ continues that tradition.
It kicks off with the longest song of the album, the title-track ‘Mare’. It’s heavy and dramatic, and a memorable opener. It’s one of those rare Kampfar songs which I can sing along to, as the lyrics are in English. Dolk has a great voice for black metal: powerful and harsh, but you can make out the lyrics without too much difficulty. The album is well-paced; the slower songs are placed carefully between the faster numbers so it never gets dull (at least to my ears). These faster ones, keep in mind, would still be considered slow for black metal. No blasting on this record.
Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me like Kampfar are paying homage to Windir on this record. No fewer than three of the tracks (‘Ildstemmer’, ‘Blitzwitch’ and ‘Nattgang’) are highly reminiscent of the great Valfar’s project. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense: these songs all sound fantastic and it pleases me greatly to be reminded of Windir. Kampfar do this brilliantly.
There’s no shortage of the classic Kampfar-sound on ‘Mare’ either, mind. Tracks 3-5 (‘Huldreland’, ‘Bergtatt’ and ‘Trolldomspakt’) all have that classic Kampfar ring to them – fans will know exactly what I mean. That sense of travelling through a troll-infested forest – Kampfar evoke these images like no other band! Great use of keys, as always. Bass is very strong on this album too. The guitar riffs are never complicated: this band puts more emphasis on simplicity, each riff getting plenty of time to work its magic on the listener.
The last song ‘Altergang’ is a bit strange as it’s by far the shortest track of the album (two and a half minutes). It has a nice piano intro but seems to be over before it begins. I would have preferred this track to be more developed in order to provide a suitably epic closer. That would have resulted in a higher mark. But nevertheless, ‘Mare’ is a great album, very catchy and instantly enjoyable. Recommended to everyone who likes their black metal a little bit slower and laid-back. Kampfar never disappoints.
This band is one of my oldschool and all time favorite black metal bands. I have always liked this band, and everything they release is golden. I have been waiting for a while for the new album., as I am sure all you avid black metal listeners are. Kampfar is back with the all new installment of their amazing nordic black metal. And they carve their names deep. I have seriously liked the way many Norse black metal bands have started going. Ihsahn, Kampfar, Vreid...all sound really good this time around. The music has gotten more about the atmosphere and less about the sheer intensity.
This is probably the slowest Kampfar, tempowise. It literally stays under 160 the entire time it is played. This also is the harshest and heaviest Kampfar album in their library. It hits hard with the deeper sound and chords, yet the pace is so slow compared to almost everything else they have done. I was really thrilled because the slower black metal always sounds so much better to me then the fast and intense stuff. Take the song Stellarvore (Watain, Sworn to the Dark) and pair it against Whispering Breeze (Ildjarn, Forest Poetry), and I usually catch myself listening to the former. It just feels so right to have black metal slower then faster...I guess it's just my sludge roots, but it always impacts me much more that way.
I guess the most notable thing about this album is that they turned up the bass. Usually in Kampfar (and in most black metal) the bass is almost nonexistent. It's rather interesting to see black metal's bass side. Bands with high bass (Averse Sefira, Vreid) always make me explode with eargasm. Especially when the bass was so loud it shook my headphones, I was in music heaven.
Musically, this album didn't change other then the tempo. It's still Kampfar, and it still sounds like normal, just slower. Vocally, Dolk and Ash are the same, and hit their intense screams. It's still Kampfar, but the quality is so much more. They began to intensely become more philosophic. It's really nice to hear this side of them. Honestly, check it out. It's that good.
Mare seems to be a pun since it finally means nightmare which seems to be the perfect name for this record. The cover is different, odd, and outstanding. While the cover reminds me of an odd theater play, the people under those red sheets may be creating a queasy feeling in some of you.
As mentioned before, things are done in other ways on Mare and those changes can also be found in the songs. Tried and true fans of this formation do not have to fear anything as the songs are indeed different, but still familiar. Compared to previous records the atmosphere is condensed. In addition, the quality of the recording is way better than before (which could be led back to the well known Peter Tägtgren who has done the production etc.) and everything seems to be a bit duskier. They seem to have gathered some more skill on their instruments as they are playing better than before, especially the drumming which is full of variation and the guitar and keyboard sounds are convincing as well. So the self-titled opener is a dream-like introduction into a nightmarish record.
Those changes are, of course, applied on every song on the record and so the record glares through a thick atmosphere, well done orchestration, the keyboard sounds that are especially well dosed and never disturbing, and excellent songwriting. The lyrics are kept in Norwegian, except two songs (Mare and Blitzwitch) which are in English, snuggling with the atmosphere because of its cold sound. The songs are mostly played in mid-tempo, imparting something spherical to the atmosphere.
I will now describe one song in detail just to give a better impression of the record as a whole as all the songs have recurring quite good and stylistic elements. Ildstemmer starts with a slow piano melody that is kept until the other instruments and vocals kick in. The tempo is quite fast as the drums use double bass patterns from the beginning. The guitar sound is quite thick and Dolk’s vocals are quite cold. The refrain is accompanied by louder piano/synthesizer melodies while the rest of the cast keeps their style. In the middle of the song this pattern is broken up and the tempo throttles to a lower mid-tempo. The guitars are playing a slow melody accompanied by piano and quite a cool drum pattern. This insertion blends into the aforementioned pattern and the song ends.
There should not be said much more than that as Mare is a well thought-out record that presents straight black metal in the good old Kampfar style, of course with those little changes. There are some minor flaws like some melodies that are seemingly somewhat similar and therefore a slight lack of variation and, in addition, one or two somewhat immature ideas. You should buy the record anyway as it is a great piece of Norwegian black metal!
nilgoun / http://threnodies.com
Whoever would have guessed that Kampfar were interested in women's studies? Such is the concept behind Mare, their 5th and most accessible full-length effort, but before you go gathering your pitchforks and torches in a panic, know that this is not some crass transformation into an Oprah Winfrey of pagan black metal. The Norsemen are still delving into the same mythology and folklore that has inspired their previous works, only honing in on a general, gender driven theme (witches, etc). It's a curious idea, one not wholly expected from a band of Vikings, and thankfully, due to the band's significant and welcome compositional skill, it works rather well. Perhaps not so well as their more vicious, early albums, but it will suffice.
As was the case with their previous album Heimgang, the band utilizes a thick guitar tone that creates an instant surge of power, not unlike later Immortal or their spin-off I. The riffs are steady, simply, and very often dwelling around the mid pace, while the drums thunder off and the melodies drift off into the tangible cold nightscape. The vocals cut straight down the middle, perfectly aligned with the meter and melodies, and thus a swelling of contrasts is created that reeks of majesty. That said, the band does seem to rely here on some often generic, or flat out dull patterns of notation (the bridge to "Mare", or the ponderous "Volvevers"), and thus certain tracks can become rather a slog to survive through. Others are simply too glorious to pass upon, like the hammering grace of "Blitzwitch" or the horn swilling "Bergtatt". There are also a few pensive piano or symphonic elements used to create atmospheric intros to the brooding "Huldreland", the melancholic "Trolldomspakt", or the crushing if predictable "Altergang".
I felt like there was just enough quality on Mare to enjoy it, but I won't claim that it's the equal of any of the previous outings. Certainly more subdued and tranquil, but never negligent of the 'wall of sound' effect the band have utilized in the past. I could do without a few of the tracks, especially the bonus "Bergtatt (in D Major)", a more uplifting, anthem alternative which painted an unintentional sonic portrait of drunken highlanders lumbering over the hills wearing lingerie, which I've yet to burn from my mind. I also felt the same comprehensive emptiness that drove me away from the latest Moonsorrow album. The songwriting structures are solid, but never all that inspiring, and it's almost as if the concept of the album itself outpaces the actual music. Ultimately, though, Mare is another good Kampfar album...just not up to the same standards of the back catalog.