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The quintessence of black metal - 97%

rasmushastrup, January 30th, 2012

Most black metal enthusiasts would probably mention several dozen Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish bands before getting to any Danish ones. Granted, Danish black metal does seem to live a rather insular existence, far from the sphere of awareness of the vast majority of metalheads around the world. If metalheads think of Danish metal at all, they’re most apt, I’d wager, to mention some mediocre, groove-infused death metal band – or, if they’re of a more discerning persuasion, the truly excellent Undergang. But Danish black metal? Nah.

That’s a shame, it really is. Bands like Blodfest deserve recognition, they, rather than Volbeat, deserve to be the flag-bearers of Danish metal, for let me be perfectly straight with you, ladies and gentlemen, Lejres fald is a truly fucking superior album in any respect, indeed it’s one of the best black metal albums I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard a shit ton since I first encountered Bathory on a Speed Kills compilation sometime around 1990.

Mood and atmosphere is important in black metal, more so than in any other genre. Death metal and thrash metal subject matter may range from zombies and gore over politics to beer and parties, and the atmosphere of an album most often reflects the subject matter, I think. But black metal, regardless of whether it deals with straight-up Satanism, war, depression and desperation, or just your basic, entirely reasonable hatred for mankind, can never be ‘fun’, for instance. If it’s fun, it ceases to be black metal.

Lejres fald has more mood and atmosphere than you can shake a bog-buried strangled slave at, no doubt about it. You really feel as if you’re participating in ancient battles, you feel the cold and the hunger, the somber ambiance as the captured slaves are led out of the village to be sacrificed to the gods. The lyrics definitely play a major part in this. They’re entirely in Danish, with a somewhat antiquated vocabulary and syntax, and deal with battles, ancient kings, weapons, honor, sacrifices, bards, forests, and death and death and death. These lyrics are delivered with an angry, snarling rasp, courtesy of bass player Gru den Grusomme and guitarist Valeskald. On one memorable occasion towards the end of the album, the vocals descend into an eerie, hateful whisper.

The short version of the musical content of this album is that it’s relentlessly violent, heavy, super-fast black metal. The slightly longer version is that it’s far more intricate than one might think at first listen. It’s chaotic, but not in some "let’s do away with any structure and flow"-Deathspell Omega kind of way. These guys understand that true, artistically valid chaos demands a measure of discipline. So while this album certainly does remind me of some wildly swirling deathly maelstrom of incredible aggression, there are definitely organization and skillful composition here, even hints of melody behind the incessant blasting of the drums and the barrage of distorted guitar. However, these melodies are not there for the sake of melody; they serve to offset the fierce noise of the music occasionally and make the music more organic, so to speak. In the third track, “De slette skjalde”, you suddenly hear something that sounds like bronze lures accompanied by kettledrums or something. Some truly creepy vocal effects make “Våben smurt I dødes blod” a very harrowing experience, and fragments of medieval, folksy sort of tune are interspersed throughout “Dybet mørkt”. But the thing is, you have to concentrate, otherwise you might miss these subtle features. The guitar sound can be likened to a barb wire tsunami or being buried alive underneath a million tons of scrap metal. This makes for a superbly abrasive feeling; actual riffs may be hard to distinguish, but the deeper you get into Lejres fald, the more you actually listen to it, the more you become aware of the nuances and the stellar musicianship.

Only rarely do the drums slow down from their blisteringly fast blasting, but that doesn’t make this album a monotonous affair. The individual songs are easy to tell apart, each one is unique in character and execution, and yet the album appears as a magnificently coherent piece of brutal art. The production is perfect – it’s not polished in any way, it’s denser than your average black hole, and yet you can still hear everything quite clearly. Though it’s raw, noisy, and barbarically brutal, it’s complex and layered music, and you will be able to discover new details for a long time. In fact, the replay value of this album is immense – fans of really condensed, ferocious black metal will be able to play Lejres fald again and again and not grow tired of it.

Imagine a more fucked-up version of Antaeus’ Blood Libels, imagine the album Katharsis’ Vvorld Vvithout End wanted to be, but couldn’t be, imagine the brutality of Niden Div. 187 combined with the oppressively vile atmosphere of Tjsuder’s Desert Northern Hell. Add to this a heaviness that’s rarely encountered in ‘pure’ black metal and a dose of out-and-out insanity, and you might end of with something like Lejres fald. These comparisons do not do justice to the album, though. It really needs to be heard to be believed. This is perhaps the most artistically cohesive black metal album I’ve ever heard, eight tracks of pure genius, and I don’t remember hearing anything else that so perfectly encapsulates the very essence and spirit of black metal. It is a masterpiece that deserves to be mentioned along with the true classics of the genre.