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Kvassimilation - 85%

autothrall, November 21st, 2009

Kampfar was a dominant force in the late 90s, where they produced a pair of highly respected albums in Mellom Skogkledde Aaser and Fra Underverdenen. Risen from the more savage, rough and tumble Mock, Dolk and Thomas renewed their commitment to black metal, but started upon a path of more introspective composition, while keeping the harsh vocals. And harsh these vocals are, almost grating against the lush background of the band's moody and fascinating guitar rhythms. It was a long seven years after Fra Underverdenen before the band would release its third album, Kvass, but the wait was well worth it, as this was a mature work with some excellent odes to the winters past and present, the and an atmosphere with sparks rumination.

The band picked up a new rhythm section in 2003, with John Bakker on the bass and II13 taking over Dolk's drum duties. Though the output is far more restrained in the speed department, this in no way crippled the quality, and in fact the writing process for Kvass produced some of the band's most memorable work. "Lyktemenn" opens with some horrid throats below a scintillating, circular guitar rhythm, the drums slowly working their way into a mid-paced beat, and the band letting this rhythm breathe. And it never wears out its welcome, though it changes little in the first two minutes of the track, before a more powerful, dark surge storms through, accompanied by Dolk's snarling and some tasteful clean backing vocals. "Til Siste Mann" is the fastest track here, though still not at the rapidity of earlier albums. It has a somber and moody sequence of riffs that alter little, though the tempo changes beneath them, and it closes in some sparser, beautiful melodies. In all, a very soothing track, one could close their eyes to it and sleep the sleep of tall trees, mountains and rolling white hills. "Ravenheart" is an exception on the album because the lyrics are in English. It's another generally fast track, and my least favorite on the album, though the end is pretty good.

'Follow the dark sign
Follow the north sign
Follow the wolf sign
Follow the ravenheart'

In any case, the following "Ildverden" is superior, with a thumping bass line and a cold stream of chords that lays itself across the backdrop, like submerging your hands below the ice into the still flowing river beneath. A simple track, lengthy track (almost 10 minutes) which continues to grow as it proceeds beyond its midpoint, and some fine acoustic strings emerge alongside the rhythm, only to signal a glorious, charging riff to come. "Hat Og Avind" returns to the charming lead-in guitar melodic style we heard opening the album, and I loved the drum work below the first riff, and the soaring clean vocals which lurk behind Dolk's harsher tones. "Gaman av Drommer" begins with a slow, beautiful riff that is quickly transformed into driving chords over II13's beat, but never really loses its shining quality, almost a rock song in a black metal shell. This is one of the better songs on the album.

A consistent record, but with the one exception that I found "Ravenheart" less inspiring than the rest of the tracks. Kvass is well mixed, with a similar laid back atmosphere to what Enslaved have done with their past 5-6 albums. The notes have much open air in which to exhale, and the bass is audible and quite present. The vocals are a great contrast, as they contribute the ugliness that the riffs simply do not have on this record. Most of these elements were already present as early as the band's debut album, but the tone here is lusher, not as sharp. The lyrics are rather simple, perhaps too simple for some, but functional with the style. This is a great record, and was a great return after the years of absence. Though not a masterpiece, it's better than the successor Heimgang in 2008, and nearly on par with the first two albums, which are both pretty amazing.

Highlights: Lyktemenn, Hat og Avind, Gaman av Drommer


A newer Kampfar - 90%

Taliesin, January 13th, 2009

After a long break the older Norwegian viking black metal band Kampfar has returned. They have updated their sound a bit, songs are on the darker, more melancholic side now. They also are writing with a bit more repetition and a touch more the older black metal sound, but still with their traditional folk riffs that make up the main of the uniqueness of their sound.

I find that this is their coldest release so far, it is overwhelmingly covered in a gloom, not so much the triumphant warrior metal that came before that would have at times absurdly happy riffs that somehow worked. Very little of that here, from time to time there are moments of major key riffing, but for the most part the guitars play in more minor key tones, while the drums keep a more desperate tone to the songs, providing a lot of structural tension. The riffs on here are as always what I think keeps me coming back. Kampfar have a distinct and very folk inspired sound. Many times they feel like listening to an ancient folk tradition simply hooked up to electric instruments. Perhaps out of all of the bands in this style they are the only ones who consistently and truly have that sort of sound almost all the time.

This could be compared to something I remember reading somewhere that the old black metal bands from Norway all sounded like some form of new folk music played very differently from old folk music. This statement has always stuck with me for a great deal of the Norwegian (and perhaps Polish and Russian scenes as well) bands had this sort of naturalistic Earthy approach to writing, where it was more based on inspiration then always trying to sound like someone else. That came latter. As such, Kampfar are without a doubt among the truly unique bands to come out of Norway and it's very good to hear something new from them that is still very good and know that some bands from Norway can evolve while still staying true to their roots and their basic sound.

This release is a deeply atmospheric recording that will satisfy any fan of folk black metal. They sound much less in the Viking spirit nowadays, but thats okay, I like this darker, more streamlined Kampfar very much.

Recorded 2006, sounds like 1994! - 89%

RAUD, July 29th, 2007

Opening up with an almost hypnotic drum and giutar intro I knew this album would hit the spot as soon as I played it the very first time.
The genre we are dealing with here is traditional black metal with some rather catchy folk melodies. Riffs are plain and repetetive but still solid and captivating in the true veins of norwegian black metal. It is as if time stands still, one is directly transported back to the roots of black metal, it's almost a bit nostalgic in a way. The atmosphere is cold and filled with that pagan feeling, hammering forth like a war horse.

Mixing is high-quality with every one and each instrument clearly present for investigation in great detail. Everything is coated with a soft layer making the listening comfortable even at extreme volumes. The softness also contributes to the hypnotic effect; it makes your daydreams even more realistic and you're found staring empty into space while your thoughts wander off into the distant past. It's just wonderful black metal meditation material. I love it.

I can't say if there is anything bad about this release. Maybe if I try to be overly critic I would say that the vocals might be a bit dull at times, but still it's the characteristic sound of Dolk (meaning "dagger") and I would not like to change that. Maybe one can be so rude as to say that this album differs very little from other Kampfar releases, but what the hell, I just adore bands that keep their sound from year after year and still deliver exactly what you expect (as long as you expect it to be standard black metal, that is). Maybe it would earn 90-95% rating if there was some acoustic giutar and more clean vocals somewhere, but it goes pretty well without it.

This is accually folk black metal, or rahter black folk metal. Every now and then the mid-paced pounding suddenly shifts to a "mid-mid-paced" folk melody in the typical norwegian style. Limited ammounts of clean vocal atmospherical choires add yet another little extra pagan feel to the music.

So, if you are into black metal this won't disappoint you. It is also true that it grows on you. First you might find it too repetetive and lacking of variations, but after some listening you see what a tremendous "stick effect" it has on you. For me personally, this record molded into a part of my soul as soon as it flowed out of my speakers the first time. As I write this I hear the lead riff of "Til Siste Mann" (To the Last Man) over and over again in my head. No discomfort though, that riff is a killer!

Best off all with this record; not one single fucking synthesizer!

Kampfar come in from the cold - 85%

drengskap, May 3rd, 2007

This is Kampfar’s first album for seven years, their last being 1999’s Fra Underverdenen. They have a new rhythm section consisting of bassist Jon and drummer II13 (yes, that’s his name…), but the core duo of vocalist Dolk and guitarist Thomas are still present and correct. Kvass (Norwegian for ‘sharp’) contains six tracks lasting a total of three-quarters of an hour, and all songs except ‘Ravenheart’ are in Norwegian.

Kampfar describe their music as ‘Norse Pagan Folklore Metal’, but it’s much more like the folkish black metal of bands like Burzum, Drudkh, Bergthron and Wyrd than Viking metal bands like Thyrfing, Amon Amarth or Månegarm. Kampfar’s melodic, mid-paced, well-produced metal is dominated by Thomas’ powerfully repetitious riffs, with the standout tracks being ‘Til Siste Mann’, which reminded me of some of the Blazebirth Hall bands like Forest and Branikald, and closing track ‘Gaman Av Drømmer’, which is the most upbeat black metal track since Drudkh’s ‘Sunwheel’, celebratory, major-key, and sounding bizarrely like Hüsker Dü (and why not?)! It’s a pleasant change to hear raw and passionate black metal played well and given a production which enables the listener to pick out individual instruments (even the bass,!), instead of the usual ‘necro’ mix with inaudible drums, vocals sounding like they were recorded on a Walkman during a blizzard etc. It’s even possible to make out the words, though Dolk’s growled vocals are resolutely harsh and flat in true black metal style.

Re-releases of the two earlier Kampfar albums Mellom Skogkledde Aaser and Fra Underverdenen are imminent, and with any luck should lead to a wider audience for this rather overlooked and underrated Norwegian band.

Kampfar does not disappoint - 80%

davidian998, June 17th, 2006

It took a while but here it is, a brand new Kampfar album. Kampfar’s new album is called ‘Kvass’ and like the previous efforts this is an unrelenting assault of raw black metal riffing, intimidating vocals and pounding drums (courtesy of new drummer II13). Kampfar hails from Norway and is promoted as a pagan black metal band with folk influences but to me this is just pure black metal, so don’t expect this to be yet another ‘viking metal’ band. Nothing has radically changed so if you were already a fan of this band you can pick this one up without hesitation because you’ll love it just as much as the last albums. Vocalist Dolk’s raspy grunts and growls sound absolutely killer again. The vocals are in my opinion definitely one of this album’s stronger points.

The album is composed of six different, relatively long tracks that slowly build up in intensity and flow together nicely. The first track called ‘Lyktemenn’ will probably be stuck in your head for a good while after listening to it because of the vocal arrangements and the droning melodies, this once again proves that, if done right, even raw black metal can actually be very catchy without drifting off into a symphonic realm like so many other bands are constantly doing and effectively providing us with more boredom than enjoyment. This is not to say that there are no keyboard or piano sounds at all, but they’re used subtly and sporadically not taking away from the guitar sound by overtaking it but by adding to it in certain tracks like ‘Til Siste Mann’ and the beginning of ‘Ravenheart’.

Black metal adepts will be pleased with this release and it was certainly worth the wait. This disc is comprised of 45 minutes of professionally played raw black metal and will entertain you for quite a while. ‘Kvass’ is definitely an album that grows on you with time.

Originally written for