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While remaining firmly underground and mostly unheard of, Runemagick have spent the noughties forging an ever more potent and authentic style of death/ doom metal. Envenom breaks the trend of Runemagick’s steady progression, relinquishing most of the groove and drive of the previous two albums and sounding like a different band compared to anything before DDD. The album is an hour of music split into five songs (between eight and fifteen minutes long), with the usual intros, outros and interludes ditched in favour of more explorative and less fragmented music.
This album feels more like the combined work of three musicians rather than a symbiotic merging of instruments. Compared to the throaty, chugging sound of DDD and OFW, Nicklas brandishes a desiccated, funereal tone that is less welded to Emma’s bass and Mojjo’s drums, instead groaning overhead with the terrible splendor of some ancient winged beast. The slower tempos actually mean that Mojjo is freed up somewhat, and across the album he indulges himself with concise, punctual fills and rolls that generate a more colourful backbone than most doom this slow would feature. Emma meanwhile is left to her own devices, and no longer constantly complementing Nicklas, she owns entire areas of the record, enveloping them with the pall of her somber, distorted bass guitar.
There is a strong stoner influence on the album; previous Runemagick albums are excellent toking material, but Envenom actually starts to sound more in common with something that fellow Swedes Ocean Chief (with whom Runemagick would later collaborate on a split album) might do. While never achieving the same heaviness as the aforementioned Vikings, the song structures on Envenom consist of drawn out, repeated sections that seep into each other almost without it registering, creating an intoxicated, at times even sleepy environment (if it weren’t for the ever fearsome growls from Nicklas, that is.).Accordingly, the guitar riffs no longer manifest as crushing post-death metal ogres, but as repetitive humming discharges of feedback. The hypnotic amalgamation of imposing death/ doom leads and stoned, swaying riffs peaks with the closing ‘Maelstrom’, a masterwork amongst the band’s many achievements.
In true Runemagick “current era” style, the tracks all run into one another; if you aren’t particularly concentrating on which track is on, this album flows like one enormous piece of music. The songs revolve around central themes, with more pressing riffs occasionally accelerating the song forwards, before it drops back to the initial motif. Extensive ambient sections create the stoner doom mood, but sections like the middle of the title track see more recognizable riff patterns emerging, and Mojjo’s drumming beginning to pick up the pace. Since Runemagick aren’t concerned with creating despondent, lamenting doom, the listener does not become distracted by their personal, emotional response to the music and instead can become fully submerged in the monolithic creations found on Envenom.
Instrumentally, Nicklas is less dominating than in the past, and with his vocals used much more sparingly to make room for extensive instrumental passages, the bass and drums have more room to breathe. Envenom is a natural-sounding jam session that takes the form of dark and suffocating doom, a gateway to the band for stoner and sludge ’heads, and an understatedly grandiose expansion of the existing Runemagick formula, setting the scene for their next two full-lengths. It doesn’t have the brute power of DDD, and although it is more consistent than its predecessor in terms of a unified sound and structure, it takes a lot longer to comprehend and appreciate. This is an unprecedented approach to bridging death/ doom and stoner metal, and is creatively the most pivotal album Runemagick’s discography. This should be recognized amongst other classics of death/ doom, but then, most of Runemagick's albums should be.
Now this album is notably different from the band’s earlier efforts. While earlier they used to compose 4-8 minutes songs overflowing with stunning riffs, here they’ve increased the regular doom influence of their music beyond a likeable limit. Not that it is bad music; it’s just not at par with their other stuff. Unfortunately, this was the album I heard first. Naturally, I never bothered to dig deep in until a friend told me how much talent these guys actually had.
Death metal in the vein Bolt Thrower and Grave was what they used to play but doom in the vein of Draconian and My Dying Bride is what we have here, only not as good. The number of actual recognizable riffs is terribly low. Atmosphere is what the band has probably aimed for and depends on, making the music unchallenging and lesser creative. Soloing is non-existent and so are the tempo shifts. All songs as a result sound similar and repetitive. Although there are moments after which speed could have been introduced, for some reason they choose not to. A common feature of albums with such formats is that the guitars are accompanied by heavy keyboard overtones, which brings me to the album’s next drawback, their absence.
The album might get good marks for what it is supposed to be, but when it comes to talent & originality, I think it fails, unlike their earlier albums. Get the first three albums first, this one the last.
The dark occult chants which emanate from the five tracks on Runemagick's "Envenom" pummel the listener with blunt force. This group plays with a doomy style instrumentally, with thick, lumbering grooves overlaid by growls of demonic possession and wicked black chants.
The monsterous tones of "Vultures" resonate with the enormous, deeply sustained bass notes from Emma Karlsson that give this trio a distinctly evil sound. Runemagick author fairly long compositions as so many doomy acts do, but they take pains to place enough variety in their riffing to hold the listener's attention well. The title track kicks off with a fast riff that is uncharacteristic for doom, but fits the dark atmosphere very well. The vocals are sparse much of the time with a specific emphasis on riffing.
Nicklas Rudolfsson handles the guitar and vocal duties for the group, placing melodic, single-note melodies over Karlsson's bass work when applicable, and at other times opting for a hammering chugging attack. Daniel Moilanen plays simple beats with a lot of start atop action and this technique suits the music of Runemagick very well. He places appropriate fills without overplaying and this is a key ingredient in the group's overall sound. As the stream of consciousness guitar melodies of the title track melt into stop action downpicking and triplet gallops, Moilanen provides the proper amount of accents needed in order to accentuate the heavy features inherent in the band's sound.
The flanged axe work Rudolfsson undertakes in "Nebulous" adds a cosmic aura to this group's compositional structure. The frontman's bleak vocal grumblings are sparse yet effective as the rumbling lyrics echo over the song's buzzing riffs. You'll find detuned, heavily distorted plodding throughout "Maelstrom", a track which seethes with the bitter force of dark magick.
This crawling repast of blackened doom ultimately succeeds in it's ominous pummeling as Runemagick reveals themselves to be yet another dusk triumvirate in the ever growing legions of the genre.