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A Dynamic And Melodic Force. - 80%

Perplexed_Sjel, February 21st, 2010

Ever since day one, I have avoided melodic black metal like the plague. I do recall having a few bad experiences when I first started listening to black metal with well respected bands like Obtained Enslavement, who also happen to operate within the melodic sub-genre. At that time, I didn’t appreciate the more melodic touches a band would implement within their music and, instead, I preferred a chaotic, more furious approach to black metal, a la ‘Transilvanian Hunger’ by Darkthrone. There was something about the image of black metal which made me believe, like a lot of naïve persons do, that the genre should be uncompromising and neglect warm melodies in favour of primitive sounding structures, which ‘Transilvanian Hunger’ has in abundance. Perhaps it has something to do with my first experience buying a black metal record. Being exposed to the appearance of one of its artists and the negativity that surrounds the whole façade of that image made me see black metal as being a hateful, misanthropic creation whose only design was to school the immature and naïve in the true ways of life. Time has a strange way of impacting upon an individuals personality.

No longer am I searching for primitive, raw bands alone, but I also engage in a spot of melodies that warm the cold cockles of my heart during the bleak winter months. Although my discovery of Kvist is not recent, I have only begun to immerse myself fully in ‘For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike’. Perhaps this is due to, once again, bad experiences I’ve had in the past with the influences of this band, such as Satyricon, a band whom I have very little time for nowadays. It is evident to us all that records like ‘Dark Medieval Times’ have impacted upon the artists here and thus, whatever has flowed before me during my time with this 1996 debut it because of what preceded it with the likes of Satyricon and also Emperor’s keyboard driven side. They say time heals all wounds so, having listened to and enjoyed this record immensely, I may have to revisit the likes of Satyricon, a band whose influence has slowly died, and relive the melodic tidings of ‘Dark Medieval Times’, a record seemingly steeped in vivid imagery and whose influence will continue even though the artist who created it is no longer looked as favourably upon. All influences are well concealed and Kvist do a stand-up job at showcasing their own individual habits, whilst also making sure to leave a footnote to bands like Emperor and Satyricon.

Having departed the black metal scene early, Kvist’s legend lives on and in good form. The three piece band established a fine reputation many years ago, but it still exists to this day and is probably strengthen with time due to the fact that this debut full-length continues to exceed the expectations of those who don’t feel as if they’ll rate it as highly as their peers have done. Fortunately, though I always enter these situations with trepidation, my fears have been squashed by the intoxicating juxtaposition I have found present here. Both cold and warm atmosphere tendencies live together, as if summer and winter have somehow combined their forces to produce the most startling imagery all on the one record. Although the guitars primarily provide that familiar feel of bleak, cold atmospheric structures (for example, ‘Svartadel’), they also tend to the warmer side of the record with fine melodies (and even a string sounding section on the same song, ‘Svartadel’ which is created by the dynamic force of the keyboards), one’s which live on in the memory although the band itself is long since defunct. I find the fantastically audible and creatively strong areas like the bass and Emperor inspired keyboards cater to the warmer feel of the record and with it comes that feeling of juxtaposed ideas that I was talking about.

The keyboards are far more sparse than expected, though they appear on songs like ‘Min Lekam Er Meg Blott En Byrde’ to provide imagery of medieval times, ancient battles and ancestry. There is a majestic feel to the keyboards and they’re smartly worked into the songs without causing too much of a fuss, melding into the background like they’re apart of the furniture. The keyboards do add a symphonic lining to the soundscapes, but this isn’t overblown, or exaggerate needlessly for affect. The keyboards are subtle and that’s the way in which they work best. As with the bass, the keyboards aim to strengthen the soundscapes, not to dominate them, though the bass does have a larger part to play in the creative side of Kvist, provided superbly by Tom Hagen, who also provides the rasping vocals -- an area of the record which is also subdued and not overblown like so many bands of this nature seem to do. ‘Ars Manifestia’, one of the strongest songs on the record, exemplifies how the bass can become a creative force, but also how it traditionally backs the guitars, too. Kvist do the simple things brilliantly and the more expansive things solidly. The opening to ‘Ars Manifestia’ is, in particular, important in highlighting the force of the bass within the record. Thankfully, Kvist’s only full-length to date isn’t an overblown, over-hyped mess. It’s skilfully crafted, incorporating key bass lines and subtle keyboards into an already dynamic mixture. Subtle, beautiful and bleak all simultaneously.