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SVARTSYN: "Wrath Upon the Earth" - 60%

skaven, December 1st, 2011

While Svartsyn’s 2007 effort revolved around atmospheric passages where relatively odd time signatures (for black metal) were repetitive and hence easier to digest, the band’s sixth full-length Wrath Upon the Earth has little twists and turns in every corner. This, plus the generally faster tempo, makes Wrath Upon the Earth a more challenging record, but in its technicality also a little less interesting effort: the album is pretty much a blast fest throughout - in the vein of 1349 - with minimum dynamic range, other than the little technical tricks.

That is not to say that the album is bad at all: Wrath Upon the Earth is a mammoth, both compositionally and sound-wise. The bursts of speed are powerful in the massive production, a production that also has its glitches, though: the mixing of drums could do better because the individual drums, such as toms, sound really apart from each other. When toms and certain symbals are hit, they sound like they are coming from somewhere else, making it all sound a bit messy. (This is just a little detail that a drummer, yours truly, found a little harassing in the production, and I can assure you that it’s nothing too severe.)

Due to the static nature of the compositions, it’s hard to pick up standout moments from the 36-minute whole. This is one of the album’s problems, even if the album is worth hearing for the devilish, monstrous atmosphere alone. At times, the seemingly constant blast beat is trance-inducing and there are moments of slightly slower tempo, too (”Dawn of Triumph, ”Blood Temple”), to not dull the listener. The music retains the strictly evil morbidity from the beginning to the end, and I find myself exhausted after the album, which is a good sign.

For fans of Svartsyn’s back catalogue, Wrath Upon the Earth might be a disappointment due to its compressed sound and ultimate speed. Nonetheless, the album is rather well done and deserves a positive rating - the impressive cover art even more points. I could see myself giving this album spins every now and then in the future, most certainly.

3 / 5
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Turbulent, earthen black metal - 70%

autothrall, January 24th, 2011

Aside from the year 2000 sophomore ...His Majesty, the Swedish Svartsyn's previous efforts have left little impression upon me, but it's nevertheless impressive that prime mover Ornias has kept the project alive for nearly two decades. Wrath Upon the Earth is the sixth full-length player, both more focused and more wretched than previous works such as Timeless Reign and Destruction of Man, and though I'm not sure it will be the one to reel me back into his gone graces, it's an interesting black metal record with some possible legs to it, due to the means through which it manages various elements, surging its raw and negative emotions with adequate pessimism and propulsion.

A ritual, almost tribal and grim intro descends into the "Wrath of Leviathan", a track which thrives off storming drums and banks of desperate, shining chords, but what is most noticeable here is how Ornias uses the vocals. These are not your standard black rasping, but instead create a deeper, death metal effect that is not unlike a Martin van Drunen, only more dense and garbled. It's actually an effective technique here, especially when it is balanced off against the backing synthesizers and writhing, melodic guitar passages. It also sets most of the tone for the remainder of the record. "My Mountain" and "Deathsworned" sound like natural side corridors, which at most will experiment with their percussion (lot of drum fills here) and rampant slews of dire sounding chord progressions. Turbulent, earthen and effective, but unfortunately once you've explored beyond the midpoint of the album, not a lot else happens, and you feel like you're listening to the same tempo shifts, even if the individual notations vary.

That being said, Wrath Upon the Earth is a balanced enough experience to take in a few tracks per listening, and the cavernous enormity of its production is comparable with a lot of the death metal nostalgia currently in favor, while maintaining the blitzkrieg momentum of the harder Norse and Swedish black metal practitioners. The vocals go a long way towards making the material stand out, even if the quality of the guitar lines does vary in the memory. Though I enjoyed ...His Majesty quite a bit when I first heard it, and that used only a few of the more grunted vocals, I'll admit that Ornias has mutated his project into something more interesting, a soil churning nightmare that, while flawed, can still create tremors throughout a fragile sanity.