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Bhleg – Ödhin

by Ian Yeara at 19 January 2021, 1:43 PM

I end up with a lot of new Black Metal promos on my desk and as much as I enjoy the genre it seems like there’s a never ending stream of new Black Metal bands I’ve never heard of and honestly wouldn’t have bothered to check out otherwise. Sometimes my cynicism takes over and I look at the coverart and go “oh great another generic Black Metal album”, in this case maybe half right, the sound and production aren’t exactly original. But the music does enough fun “atmospheric” things that I’m willing to give it a pass. At least the vocals sound good and substantial, because that can often be the big downfall in projects like this.

BHLEG appears to be a pretty straightforward Black Metal band from Vastra, Gotaland, Sweden on their third full length album. First of all I appreciate that while the sound and production sound pretty typical for the genre, they also sound competent and professional which I certainly appreciate.

I like that the album gets off to a strong no nonsense start with "Vyss", no piddling about with atmospheric buildup, just blast beats and riffs in your face. The music does calm down considerably after that, and the music seems to be well paced with a logical sense of rising and falling action. Where this album really shines is when you can hear the synth and some vocal harmonies in the background, because in those moments they really remind me of ENSLAVED’s early material, especially "Vikingr Veldi". Something to know about me, I’m a huge ENSLAVED fan, as well as someone who identifies as Norse Pagan, so thematically I’m eating this up and anytime a Black Metal band reminds me of ENSLAVED that is praise of the highest order for me.

"Alyr III" is really cool, I like the variety of sounds it transitions through and it helps this album feel a little less one dimensional. Getting into the sound a little bit more, I love how the dissonance in the guitar is accentuated in the mix and it stands out when it needs to. The vocal performance is really strong too, L. and S. together make quite the duo of harsh vocals and background shrieks and whispers. It’s just really tight and like I said, it may not do anything particularly original, but what they do, they play it really well. Sometimes it can be hard to analyze good songwriting in Black Metal, but this is good songwriting. "Gyllene Gal" is an interesting little interlude with some basic synth work, but it’s a nice break from the relentless riffs and shrieks, though for an instrumental that basically just repeats the same melody over and over again, it could definitely be about half as long, interludes do not need to be more four minutes or longer.

"Slukad Sol" surprised me by focusing on clean vocal harmonies, but I definitely enjoyed it. On the surface this album doesn’t seem very diverse, but I like how each song has a different point of emphasis, each song has a sense of identity and it doesn’t sound like most Black Metal albums that are meant to be one long song/album split up into parts. A lot of Black Metal loses me because I can’t easily identify the change in songs and because a lot of the transitions sound very similar. "Ödet" has an interesting focus with more of a Heavy Metal groove instead of the usual riffs and the bass almost sounds funky at points, but still dissonant. So really, there’s only four full songs on this album, but they have enough diversity within each song that each song serves a particular function and I found reasons to enjoy each one.

Although this review might have started off rather critical of the album, and I will re-emphasize that in terms of Black Metal this album isn’t doing anything that hasn’t been done a million times, what sets this album apart is the variety of influences they’ve drawn on and of course the sublime production value. Black Metal has a tendency to be a very homogeneous genre and sometimes production is all that sets albums apart. "Ödhin" pays enough homage to 90s scandinavian Black Metal in just the right ways that when I really sat down to analyze this album I was surprised and impressed. This is the definition of a solid album, that maybe doesn’t do enough to rise above merely good, but hey there’s nothing wrong with that.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 6
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

1. Vyss
2. Alyr III
3. Gyllene Gal
4. Slukad Sol
5. Ödet
6. Drömmen Om Vårdträdet
L. – Bass, Vocals
S. – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals, Percussion
Record Label: Nordvis Produktion


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Edited 31 May 2023

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