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Unlike anything else on this earth... - 95%

SoundsofDecay, February 21st, 2014

...apart from all the inferior copies it has inspired through the years, that is. What you're looking at here is the possible genesis of all the modern, not-quite-black metal that exists in the current climate, both good and insipid. Really, this album is quite far from black metal. Though I must say that its all the better for it. The recent trend of "shoegaze" black metal can also quite possibly be traced back to Bergtatt's dreamy passages and echoing clean vocals, its use of chords and atmosphere, and overall "soft" production quality that are completely unlike what almost everyone else was doing in 1994 and sounds a lot more like today's so called innovators than many give it credit for. This is a band that was doubtlessly many years ahead of its time, and continues to be, in its ever changing chameleonic trajectory from black metal to trip hop, ambient and rock.

Bergtatt is not so much an evolution of the preceding Vargnatt demo as it is a sideways step. The almost goth tinges of Vargnatt are gone and replace with a much more natural, "foresty" feel that has lead to this album being praised as one of the foremost examples of folk metal. Also gone are the avantgarde black metal elements that led me to strongly compare it to countrymen (and avant BM pioneers) Ved Buens Ende in my mind, alongside VBE's Carl Michael Eide who drummed on the demo. In their place is a unique and enthralling concoction of dreamy riffing and vocals, folky acoustic guitars, and elements of black metal in the shape of harsh vocals and blast beats. This is not harsh or aggressive music. The blast beats and screams are more like flavourings that give the overall sound more variety and are highly effective, and definitely do add to the intensity when required. Garm's clean vocals are the star of the show, however. He utilises a brilliant, almost Gregorian chant style of singing here (as opposed to his more "epic" style on the Borknagar debut) that really aids in whisking you away to the dreamland that this music inhabits. Conceptually the album is a "faerietale" that follows a story of a character being "spellbound into the mountain in 5 chapters", as the back cover says. The language is not Norwegian, but an old form of Danish that lends itself perfectly to Garm's voice and to the music in general.

The performances of the musicians are fantastic, from the instantly recognisable drum roll that opens "I Troldskog Faren Vild" and its unforgettable guitar solos, the delicate piano in the middle of "Graablick Blev Hun Vaer" to the stark beauty of the acoustic guitars, whispers and chanting that makes up "Een Stemme Locker". There is no shortage of moments on this album that I can only describe as "epic", as overused a word as that may be. It really takes the listener somewhere else, if he or she is willing. One I must draw attention to is "Soelen Gaaer Bag Aase Need" and its incredible passage beginning at 2.10 into the song, which is probably the single highlight of the album, if I must choose one. This album is just magic. How anyone can think of it any anything other than one of the greatest pieces of music ever made is a little beyond me, but there you go. Variety is the spice of life I guess, and not everyone is going to agree on that. Those who do share my opinion, will most likely have treasured this album as I have done for many years, and will continue to do so for many more. Bergtatt is, simply put, one of my favourite albums ever.