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...His Majesty - 98%

Orlok666, March 24th, 2012

In the world of black metal Svartsyn are somehow overlooked by many, why this is is beyond me, as they are one of my favorites. The first thing I heard by them was the Arckanum split (which is up there as being one of the best and most essential splits in black metal) and I was very impressed by Svartsyn's side on it. A little later I found this release in a used shop and picked it up. I was impressed at first by the booklet, the band photos are drenched in a mysterious and obscure occultism, and actually serve to really heighten the atmosphere of the album, giving the proper mental framework before putting the record on.

From the beginning we are submerged in a chaotic storm of ice cold riffing. The production is very harsh and uncompromising, guitars are a blaze of distortion, mixing with the very distorted bass which operates as an important factor in the sound. The drumming is organic and compressed sounding, giving it a very unique sound in black metal. What I find is that the sound compresses all the elements together to create one massive sound, which gives the riffing strength when they start to break out and move into epic territory.

The vocals are a distorted and highly reverberated and delayed attack, used almost as another instrument and very sparsely. On top of this we have moments where strange sounds and percussive elements bang on top of the instruments creating a ravaged blown out speaker sound similar to some Arckanum releases.

The music is played very passionately, the drumming and guitar riffs creating an adrenaline high type of feeling that leaves the listener breathless. Sometimes it'll slow down and move into different tempos, which works well, but the general pace of this album is fast and unrelenting. The riffing and songwriting is really unique on here. I haven't heard anyone really do anything similar. It moves from more chordal or power chord based sections to parts with very unique and epic riffs that create a singular mood of power and intense emotion. Perhaps at times Immortal's release Pure Holocaust can be given as a sign post, or maybe early Gorgoroth, but they are only a suggestion, Svartsyn really don't sound like anyone else.

Mood is very important on here, Svartsyn are strong on atmosphere throughout. The atmosphere is oppressive yet epic, highlighting the lyrical focus which is on morbid, occultic and apocalyptic themes. Lyrics and vocals work to highlight the feeling of the songs, and are used in a sparse fashion. Later releases by the band continue this approach, with long stretches of instrumentals. This album features a much stronger vocal presence, but still shows a focus on the instrumentation and riffing as a key to the understanding of the artists intent.

Even when moving into more old school sections of d-beats or slower tempos, Svartsyn give a kind of twisted method of applying those influences, which gives this album even more of the obscure feelings. It's hard to explain how an album can by very mysterious, obscure and yet epic, but Svartsyn manage it. You'll just have to listen to get it.

I'm not sure if this album or this band in general is for everyone, but I recommend not only this album but their entire discography to anyone who is into occultic and Satanic black metal. Particularly in these days of Orthodox black metal bands, Svartsyn stand as something much more real and primal though in a similar vein. If you like Arckanum or the earlier Norwegian and Swedish bands this album should be for you.