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This was Svartsyn's debut release The True Legend. Through Agonia Records the band has partially re-recorded the album, repackaged it, and modified the track list. Now, I haven't heard the original, and to be fair this is my first taste of Svartsyn. The band play the kind of black metal common of their country and obviously shades of acts such as Dark Funeral and Lord Belial can be heard across the release, there are also some first wave nuances in the riffs which are all good.
The album largely dances between the two focal points of their sound, on the one side you have the blasting style of the more modern Swedish bands (with a hint of death metal for good measure) and on the other you also have the more simplistic, punchy riffing style bands such as Bathory established in the early days. Having no idea what the original sounded I can't compare, however I will say that this still oozes plenty of raw underground charm. There is a minor niggle in the snare sound though, especially when the album is cranked up loud, which is something they should have addressed, though still relatively minor.
I can imagine some fans of the band would be disappointed with the omission of "Goatthrone" from the track listing, and I'm not entirely sure why a band would omit a song, maybe they don't like it anymore? However the album certainly is good, and at only seven tracks now, is easily digestible. Tracks such as the title track or the quite frankly awesome "Ghoulhaunted Forest" show Svartsyn at their best, and fans of Swedish black metal will definitely want to pick this up for the collection.
All in all, whilst a tad rawer than your Dissections and your Sacramentums this album is a well worth checking out and there is certainly a nice bit of old school charm that might set this apart from the debuts of some of the more well known Swedish acts. Now is the perfect time to pick this up, with some sweet new artwork to boot. A commendable addition to any self-respecting black metal record collection.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
As sharp as it looks with its hellish new design, The True Legend is not actually a new album of original Svartsyn tracks, but a partial re-recording and remix of their 1998 debut on Folter Records. The Swedish black metal veterans have gone all out to address numerous issues with the material's older incarnation, and thus it sounds practically like a different band. Some listeners might balk at such a decision since the revisions sounds a lot more polished and meaty, but trust me when I say that the changes are like night and day. The old version sounded like it was recorded in a toilet somewhere in the dregs of Malebolgia, where this new skin is fresh, pummeling and even more vicious due to the vocal mix and sheer, gut wrenching fiber of the guitar tone.
Some may rue the fact that the track "Goatthrone" from the original is omitted here, but the rest of them remain and maintain a rapt portrait of diabolism that is quite headbangable. The guitars in "Cursed Blase from the Castle" or "Snake in the Garden of Eden" ooze with simplistic, fulfilling chord rhythms, their archetypes rooted in the savage, rocking momentum of old that was once pioneered by acts like Hellhammer, Bathory, Mayhem and Bewitched. There are some blasted sequences for those more enamored of the Dissection, Lord Belial, Sacramentum variety of Swedish melodic black woven throughout the 90s ("Ghoulhaunted Forest", "Shadows Painting My Eyes"), but in general I found that the more mid paced or punk-fueled rhythms throughout the album were its clear strong points. Most impressive, though, are the vocals of Ornias which are brutal barks that sound like a pack of attacking hellhounds. Rapacious, reverbed vitriol at its finest, and they help compensate for the relatively average, barbaric lyrics.
The guitar tone reminds me a bit of the modern Arckanum recordings. Rich, strong and fluid, though the actual writing isn't all that similar beyond the overarching black metal components. The drums are tight, the bass pumping and the dynamics wide enough that the songs stay fresh even when their riffing patterns seem contrived or less appealing. Personally, I found the sound of the original album to be quite restricting, and thus greatly preferred their sophomore ...His Majesty (2000), but this fresh coat of paint goes a long way towards fixing its production issues. I wouldn't say that The True Legend suddenly becomes an amazing, unforgettable experience, or one of the better records in that Swedish class of later 90s, but its a facelift well deserved, and in all honesty I'd be just as likely to break this out as their recent records like Wrath Upon the Earth (2011) or Timeless Reign (2007). It will be interesting to see if they implement a similar sound to future efforts.
Shortly into the second half of the 1990's, Norway's supremacy within the Black Metal scene was gone and it was clearly Sweden that held sway, with bands such as Setherial, Dark Funeral, Funeral Mist and many others releasing cult albums that still light the Black Flame in our dark hearts today. SVARTSYN, unfortunately, were robbed of their chance to belong to that group, at least at that historically significant stage. The reason that they did not accede to the BM throne back then was not their inability to create Black Metal as it's supposed to be, i.e grim, freezing and evil, but more a matter of incompetence on the part of the people responsible for the mixing of "THE TRUE LEGEND", an album which was released by Folter Records.
Where do I begin? Well, I bought this album when it first came out, and was truly smitten by the CD's appearance. The cover bears no logo, no writings, only a picture of flames and embers underneath. Hellish in the real sense of the word, one might say. Everything is in black, only the cover and band member pictures are not. The latter are among the best and most becoming of Black Metal I have ever seen. The CD simply radiates darkness and evil! Having had a good look at it, I obviously felt impatient to listen to it. So I did. Well, at least I tried! The truth be told, if I had to pick just 1 album that represents the worst kind of production and mixing I have ever heard, it would be this one. Sure, BM should not be polished, but raw and threatening, but I could not make out what the guitars were playing at all! Everything was lost in the mess that was created at Avalon Studio. It sounds like my band and I rehearsing in our old rehearsal room, where we often had to stop in the middle of a song because we could not hear each other at all! SVARTSYN must have been desperate and low on cash to opt for this studio and worse, be contented with the sound quality thus created on "THE TRUE LEGEND". It took me countless listenings to succeed in distinguishing what it is exactly that the guitars are playing. Once I understood the music, it became obvious that the songs on this album are outstanding and it surely deserves to be better known in the BM underground. The sound simply ruins what is in fact an excellent album.
Whenever I listen to "THE TRUE LEGEND" again after a certain while, I'm taken aback by how hard I find it to hear the guitarwork, although I do manage to make the most of things nowadays, perhaps thanks to what I remember as much as what is actually audible. I would recommend this CD to all maniacs out there who have the patience necessary to explore this album one step and one listen at a time, until it emerges in all its evil and dark splendor ; by BM aesthetics, this is pure beauty indeed!
Now here is a textbook example of how poor production can ruin a black metal release. Black metal is a genre that is notorious for raw production and this can really enhance the atmosphere but of course that does not always work. Here the production is not raw in the sense of fuzzy but just poorly mixed.
The problem with this release is that much of it sounds so goddamn thin and whoever did the mixing should be shot. The vocals drown out everything when they are heard and are overly abrasive. The snare drum is fucking irritating and is too far forward in the mix, or the drums are just too far back in the mix and can hardly be heard through the fucking mess that the guitars make. They are never in the middle. The guitars can not be distinctly heard for the most part but are just stuck in this mud which is a shame as many of the riffs are fucking great and even eclipse the riffs from …His Majesty. Just listen to the title track and you will know what I mean. This really is a potential neck-breaker.
The bass from the drums and guitars are fairly distorted and sound fucking great. I mean just listen to the beginning of The Snake in the Garden; I just want to break my neck to this but the snare comes in and the urge goes down and then the vocals come in and I am denied this desire completely. This is certainly meant to be the headliner of the album being over 6 minutes with some keyboards used that add a sense of honor and glory. It is just unfortunate that the vocals sound like they were done separately and poorly mixed in and goddamn the snare becomes irritating here.
The rhythm guitar is fucking atrociously recorded, mixed or whatever. It just sounds way to muddy. A pity, as the riffs are really great. There are some fucking awesome breaks that send shivers down my spine. Such is the case about 4:40 into Goatthrone which was re-recorded.
If there ever was an album that I would want re-recorded and properly mixed then it would have to be this one. It had the potential to be a classic but the recording is one of the worst I have heard and I am not referring to rawness. The True Legend is still worth hearing but is not necessarily worth shelling out money for, especially if you are on a tight budget. I suggest checking out the other releases first as they are much better.
Standout tracks The Snake in the Garden, The True Legend.