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In the world of black metal Svartsyn are somehow overlooked by many, why this is is beyond me, as they are one of my favorites. The first thing I heard by them was the Arckanum split (which is up there as being one of the best and most essential splits in black metal) and I was very impressed by Svartsyn's side on it. A little later I found this release in a used shop and picked it up. I was impressed at first by the booklet, the band photos are drenched in a mysterious and obscure occultism, and actually serve to really heighten the atmosphere of the album, giving the proper mental framework before putting the record on.
From the beginning we are submerged in a chaotic storm of ice cold riffing. The production is very harsh and uncompromising, guitars are a blaze of distortion, mixing with the very distorted bass which operates as an important factor in the sound. The drumming is organic and compressed sounding, giving it a very unique sound in black metal. What I find is that the sound compresses all the elements together to create one massive sound, which gives the riffing strength when they start to break out and move into epic territory.
The vocals are a distorted and highly reverberated and delayed attack, used almost as another instrument and very sparsely. On top of this we have moments where strange sounds and percussive elements bang on top of the instruments creating a ravaged blown out speaker sound similar to some Arckanum releases.
The music is played very passionately, the drumming and guitar riffs creating an adrenaline high type of feeling that leaves the listener breathless. Sometimes it'll slow down and move into different tempos, which works well, but the general pace of this album is fast and unrelenting. The riffing and songwriting is really unique on here. I haven't heard anyone really do anything similar. It moves from more chordal or power chord based sections to parts with very unique and epic riffs that create a singular mood of power and intense emotion. Perhaps at times Immortal's release Pure Holocaust can be given as a sign post, or maybe early Gorgoroth, but they are only a suggestion, Svartsyn really don't sound like anyone else.
Mood is very important on here, Svartsyn are strong on atmosphere throughout. The atmosphere is oppressive yet epic, highlighting the lyrical focus which is on morbid, occultic and apocalyptic themes. Lyrics and vocals work to highlight the feeling of the songs, and are used in a sparse fashion. Later releases by the band continue this approach, with long stretches of instrumentals. This album features a much stronger vocal presence, but still shows a focus on the instrumentation and riffing as a key to the understanding of the artists intent.
Even when moving into more old school sections of d-beats or slower tempos, Svartsyn give a kind of twisted method of applying those influences, which gives this album even more of the obscure feelings. It's hard to explain how an album can by very mysterious, obscure and yet epic, but Svartsyn manage it. You'll just have to listen to get it.
I'm not sure if this album or this band in general is for everyone, but I recommend not only this album but their entire discography to anyone who is into occultic and Satanic black metal. Particularly in these days of Orthodox black metal bands, Svartsyn stand as something much more real and primal though in a similar vein. If you like Arckanum or the earlier Norwegian and Swedish bands this album should be for you.
First of all, this is not a black/thrash album as stated by the previous reviewer. I wanted to clear the water for anybody searching for it. This is a pure black metal album, and I'm not sure how he got this album confused with the likes of Aura Noir or Absu, but I digress. Also, this is my first review, and I figured I'd kick it off with one of my favorite black metal goodies from the metal hotbed that is Sweden.
This album is a raging, fiery monster. There's not really many other ways to put it. The tone of their guitars is gigantic, and the riffs rightly focus on being huge both in concept and in sound. Most of the time they're churning out twisted, evil riffs but there's an underlying epicness about them that gets accentuated when they go into epic riff mode, which is basically the one or two times per song that they come out of this huge dungeon of great riffs and relieve the tension they've built up with a slightly more melodic focus, only to dive back in to the madness shortly. They do this exceptionally well.
Describing the riffs in detail is slightly difficult, as although they aren't absolutely original (which I'll note is nearly impossible to be in black metal nowadays), they're pretty unique and are comprised of a lot of influences. There's definitely a lot of trem picking, but they like to dance in between chords and single notes in a very fresh way. There's some counterpoint here, but not it's not as prominent as Sacramentum's FAftS. Overall, they do a great job of complimenting each other and creating a fiery atmosphere.
Tunnels of His Majesty, which I guess is pretty much the title track, is an instant classic. This is the track that has the aforementioned 'epic riff' effect, except the riff is the song and the dungeon is the album. It's the six minutes that rises above the chaos and evil and just grabs a hold of you and captivates you.
The drums, predictably, are very very good. Actually, in parts with simpler riffs the drummer is carrying the 'busyness' of the sound, and he's definitely not just made of blasts like 95% of BM drummers are. There's a lot of groovy beats that compliment the guitars wonderfully. When he does blast, it's very accurate and varied. All these guys know how to play their instruments very well (maybe not the bassist, I think he's only audible one time in a break between riffs).
Vocals are the thing I least look for in a black metal band, but this dude is something else. He's got a lot more low end to his growls than most do, while still retaining the black metal shriek/yell feel, and it just sounds really good with the tunes. Probably my favorite black metal vocal performance.
Really though, I could continue to try to describe this beast all I want, I can't really give it justice. These guys just had it right on this one. Great tone, riffs, composition, production, the works. This is their opus, and one of the minority of black metal albums with an unmistakable sound. Again, I can't overstate how HUGE this sound is.
If you like black metal, please do not die before this destroys your mind. A classic of the genre, as far as I'm concerned.
Svartsyn has never gained much of a following due to numerous problems with labels and lineup changes. …His Majesty remains to be their best full length to date. They manage successfully to take the rawness of early 90s Scandinavian black metal and combine it with rather technical guitars and pummeling blast beats to give the heavy thrash edge.
The True Legend was the bands debut album which had some excellent songwriting but the production was utterly horrible ruining the whole listening experience. Fortunately the band managed to keep a relatively high quality of songwriting and fix the production issues with …His Majesty. The atmosphere that can be found here is one that is fairly cold and hate-filled and often chaotic which is very common for black metal except that due to the thrashier nature you also get a good head-banging experience.
The drums pummel the listener with endless double bass and goddamn can this drummer play. Though not really similar I am reminded of Kreator’s masterpiece, Pleasure to Kill. The drummer is particulary noticeable in Nekromantic Flesh where he bangs the shit out of the drums and even has the odd solo. Good stuff. Plenty of good guitar riffs can be found here though not as aggressive on the debut. The riffs usually repeat 5 or 6 times before they are changed which is good as it is not overly repetitive. Occasionally the riffs verge into chaotic territory while never losing focus enhancing the atmosphere. There are numerous thrash breaks throughout which are done very well. The vocals are fairly typical ice cold shrieks that echo through the sound but unlike the debut they do not drown everything else out. The vocals sound like they were recorded by a cheep recorder and sound slightly to abrasive than I would have liked but does not inhibit too much.
The only real weakness with this album besides the vocals which I already mentioned is that the length is only 31 minutes. This barely warrants a full length over an EP. There is no filler at all here so I am hardly complaining.
So overall a very competent black/thrash release, and is the best album to date. A bit of a shame that the band lost much of the aggression with Destruction of Man but fortunately it returned for the split with Arckanum.
Standout tracks include, Tunnels of his Majesty and, Nekromantic Flesh