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Múspellzheimr – Múspellzheimr

by Andrew Graham at 15 June 2021, 9:46 PM

It would be no small amount of exaggeration to say that atmospheric black metal had become anything resembling ‘mainstream’, however, thirty years after the founding of BURZUM (and long after most people would own up to listening to it!) the genre is highly populated. It is gratifying to see a musical style that was once seen as really very fringe indeed taken rather more seriously and achieve the appreciation it deserves. There's a flip-side to this of course: the more crowded it becomes, the more difficult it is to stand out. MÚSPELLZHEIMR, a Danish outfit of mysterious history and origin (indeed even the line-up is unknown – how kvlt is that?!) have managed to offer a truly unique and worthwhile record to the atmospheric black metal tradition.

Opening track “Søkkdair” commences with a mid-paced riff consisting of a series of key changes that, while repetitive, quickly create a hypnotic effect that draws the listener in. When we become comfortable (at least, as comfortable as one can be in black metal) a more classic black metal blasts and tremolo-riffage. To call the overall tone of production ‘abrasive’ would be firstly, an understatement, and secondly not really a fair point of criticism. It is often the case in black metal that practitioners seek out that ‘authentic’ black metal sound, and so a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required. To those familiar with the sound this is not a difficult thing, but for those whom, perhaps, this is a fairly new experience, stick with it. Like scotch and blue cheese, it is a taste that one acquires with effort.

Already in the first track we have aspects that defy usual genre-conventions – acoustic and quiet(ish) sections that break up the blackened savagery. This theme continues on into “Selvæder”, with another savage opening riff that eventually gives way to an almost contemplative interlude. “Drømme om sten, om storm, om ild” really takes this idea and runs with it. Following another interlude, the blast-beat takes on an almost hopeful tone (well… melancholic at least, instead of outright nihilistic). Thoughtful acoustic guitars are complimented by keyboards to produce something almost resembling OPETH (at least, if they were a progressive black, not death, metal band).

Speaking of prog, “Gabet og Tordenklang” features some light usage of odd timing and bouncing between themes and moods that makes it really quite engaging. The acoustic section that commences log not after the five-minute mark followed immediately by blast-beats that would be familiar to fans of such groups as MAYHEM is certainly jarring, but just as successful as when OPETH did it! “Draugen” kicks in the door with a black metal scream that Attila Csihar himself would be proud of. The songwriting here is really clever, as even on a first listen there’s a palpable sense of build-up and crescendo to this track – not just in itself but as a conclusion to the whole record.

Even setting aside the pure mystery of the identity of the members (and other classically black metal shenanigans) this is a seriously cool record with appeal to both hardcore atmospheric black metal nerds as well as relative beginners. It is at once authentic without being impenetrable. Due praise is warranted here, and I cannot wait to see what else is born from the minds of MÚSPELLZHEIMR!

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

1. Søkkdair
2. Selvæder
3. Drømme om sten, om storm, om ild
4. Gabet og Tordenklang
5. Draugen
Record Label: Amor Fati Productions


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