Svartsyn - Wrath Upon the Earth
Agonia Records
Black Metal
8 songs (36:02)
Release year: 2011
Svartsyn, Agonia Records
Reviewed by Charles
Intros, eh? That most tedious inevitability of black metal albums. Those two-minute passages of Satanic chanting, acoustic twanging, or grating noise, which serve only to be skipped over on good albums and offer the only high point on bad ones. Long-running Swedish warlocks Svartsyn, however, begin Wrath Upon the Earth (their sixth full-length but my first of theirs) with such a marvellously ominous cavalcade of whining desert horns, war percussion and shrieking orchestral zazz that it could not leave you more pumped up to hear some belligerent orthodox black metal.

And, fortunately, this expertly scary opening statement is honoured by 34 minutes of consummate Scandinavian blasting. Despite how oversaturated their medium is, Svartysn carve an authentically distinctive niche for themselves. Their sound is contorted and sometimes jarring, based on riffing which would feel awkward in another context but which interlocks savagely with the rabid, warlike drumming. My Mountain, for example, starts with a winding, languid black metal riff that has a quirkily off-kilter time feel (it’s a compound 6/8 but the accenting of the drums jars the flow of every fourth bar). Each time this riff is repeated an extra layer of harmony is pinned on until the sound seems to scream, making for a spine-tingling opening statement. Then we rush suddenly and headlong into a turbulent clatter, in which any chance of slipping simply into a by-the-book blast is annihilated by repeated temporal contortions as guitars and drums collide together to produce barbarous rhythmic stabs. It’s remarkably well crafted black metal of both fury and complexity, reminiscent of Abgott, though I find Svartsyn’s sound to have a more engaging sense of violence. In the spitting, livid instrumental interaction it also evokes the spectacular death metal of Azarath.

This really sets the tone of one of the more compositionally interesting orthodox black metal albums I have heard in a while. Its loping, unpredictable style is often gripping, as on the truly imposing closer He Who Knows, which veers chaotically from lurching and misshapen slow riffs to salivating, almost-death-metal blasting and back. It is not flawless; like many albums of its sort it can drag at times, given the almost total lack of dynamic range. Still, looking round other reviews of this record, the lukewarm attitude of many is quite surprising. As it stands, I will be pleasantly surprised if more than a handful of traditionalist black metal albums in 2011 grab me as Wrath Upon the Earth has.

Killing Songs :
My Mountain, He Who Knows, Blood Temple
Charles quoted 87 / 100
Other albums by Svartsyn that we have reviewed:
Svartsyn - Black Testament reviewed by Andy and quoted 73 / 100
Svartsyn - The True Legend reviewed by Charles and quoted 75 / 100
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