without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Going back with my memories to 2008 (or was it 2009?? I just don’t know!) I remember that one day I’ve found a letter in my mailbox with a promo CD of completely unknown Norwegian band called Svarttjern. The name of the band didn’t ring a bell at all and the only thing, for which I recognised it was that Carpathian Forest has a song titled “Journey Through the Cold Moors of Svarttjern”. Anyway, since I’m a big fan of the Norwegian black metal scene – both old and new – I played the CD right away and to this day I remember how blown away I was by this music! At that time my favourite, currently released, Norwegian albums were the ones from Urgehal, 1349, Vidsyn, Disiplin or Taake, but Svarttjern jumped on the darkened throne next to them immediately! I just couldn’t expect a better black metal devastation and desecration than “Misanthropic Path of Madness”. When reviewing it I gave to Svarttjern the maximum points, and have done it without any regrets.
Anyway, Svarttjern somehow remained quite silent, maybe because HansFyrste joined Ragnarok as their new vocalist and so the band wasn’t promoting the album properly? I was also quite surprised that “Misanthropic Path of Madness” didn’t get as many enthusiastic reviews as I would expect it to get. Besides, that label called Schwarzdorn isn’t the best one out there, I have no doubts that if “Misanthropic Path of Madness” came out on different label then it would probably get more recognised. Recently there’s been more publicity around the band, as they’ve signed a pact with Agonia Records and released their second LP, “Towards the Ultimate”, what was one of the reasons why I decided to listen to the debut, as I haven’t been doing that since about two years. Releasing new LP is also a cool opportunity to exhume the previous one and get massacred once again.
And I fuckin did, believe me. Right with the opening song Svarttjern slays, not bothering about taking the prisoners, just cutting their throats with excellent, fierce riffs, fast drumming and relentless aggression. “Code Human” (to which Svarttjern has also recorded a video) is definitely the best track from the whole album, it evokes an evil, cruel atmosphere right from the start and I must say that I just love those riffs and ghastly vocals of HansFyrste. Style wise I think I can say that Svarttjern sounds mainly very Norwegian; they have a lot in common with the likes of 1349, Ragnarok (is it obvious? But Svarttjern is way better in my opinion, while Ragnarok will always remain just a mediocre Norwegian band), Tsjuder plus there are few similarities to Marduk. That fast tempo, which makes the music so uncompromising and destructive, is being kept for a solid part of the album, what I like a lot, but mind that Svarttjern do not avoid slow patterns and even more melodic accents, so they try to keep the balance between all kinds of playing, which is great of corpse, as long as they manage to create a morbid, violent and menacing atmosphere. There’s never any monotony here and “Code Human”, as I already wrote, is the best song from the album, it is just a damn blast, right into your face, it’s very uncompromising and killer track. “Stillborn Acolyte” could have been taken from 1349’s “Hellfire” LP, it offers similar sort of fast devastation, with killer riffs like from “Sculptor of Flesh”! And the title song, “Misanthropic Path of Madness”, is even more uncompromising, it is just pure madness! From the other hand you’ll find here such songs as “Ancient Shadows Revelation”, which is based on slower riffing (although occasionally it also fastens to the speed of light), some of which are almost like good old Darkthrone or Gorgoroth (from “Panzerfaust” and “Under the Sign of Hell” eras).
All together “Misanthropic Path of Madness” offers seven great songs, plus one bonus track (“Ære Fra Det Indre”, which has slightly rawer production, I think), which is something like 30 minutes of Norwegian black metal cult. And I must sincerely recommend Svarttjern’s debut to all maniacs of this music; they won’t be disappointed, as this LP is just excellent, really well composed and performed and also the production of “Misanthropic Path of Madness” is great and powerful. This is just damn great record and a must to have, in my opinion. I just wonder whether it’s ever been released on vinyl or not?
Standout tracks: “Code Human”, “Misanthropic Path of Madness”, “Stillborn Acolyte”
Svartjjern is a straightforward Norse black metal assault with HansFyrste (of Ragnarok) on vocals. The style here is nothing you haven't heard before if you're into bands like 1349, Nidingr or Swedish bands like Dark Funeral and Mork Gryning, but it's decent for a debut. The shift between its blasting forte and slower thrashing chug sections is pretty much guaranteed to incur some whiplash in its listeners. For the rest, there's the eyecatching, wrecked corpse of its cover snuff model, spattered in dark blood.
"Code Human" blasts forth from the crossgates of hopelessness, breaking down into a mid-paced thrasher over the steady double bass. "Ancient Shadows Revelation" continues this stream of thought with a continued double bass through its verses, picking up into some ravenous chords below HansFyrste's deep throat spew. The album's stronger numbers include the savage and thrashing "Stillborn Acolyte" with its taps and trills amidst the thrust and blast; "Passions of 7" flows like a river of bloodied grace and memory before breaking once again into the mid-paced chugging; "Finally the World Shall Shape" opens with a sinister riff worthy of vintage Slayer.
The mix is dense and dark, but all instruments cut through like sawblades, their sharp steel teeth filed perfectly by the brutal vocal delivery. Several of the songs have the same formula: blast to rolling double-bass thrash, then blast again, and so forth. This doesn't make them bad per se, but it does feel like a rehash of the same continuous idea and gets a little old. I'm more a fan of Ragnarok (and they're working on something new) but this is a decent album which should tide over fans of 1349, Myrkskog, etc until they produce some new material.
As the spiked fist of Satan himself, the Norwegian blasphemers SVARTTJERN have an appointment with your face, so it's time to kiss your teeth goodbye. You might have heard of these guys through vocalist HansFyrste's other band RAGNAROK, which means that this can safely be classified as True Norwegian Black Metal.
Despite of their nationality, the crushing brutality of "Misanthropic Path Of Madness" places SVARTTJERN musically closer to those notorious Swedes in MARDUK than their often more atmospheric countrymen. There are plenty of moments where I catch myself thinking that this should have been the natural follow-up to the modern masterpiece "Nightwing", which should be considered a compliment. Leaving no room for fiddly-diddly folk frolicking, and no monotonous melancholic moments, every track is a display in total overdrive of no-bullshit evil and ferocity.
Even though nobody can accuse SVARTTJERN of breaking new ground, the pure energy and bile of "Misanthropic Madness" is a swift and unpretentious kick in the balls. And the devil knows, we all need a good testicle-assault now and then!
(Online March 5, 2009)
Written for the Metal Observer