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Ravnkald – The Pagan Resistance

The Pagan Resistance
by Andrew Graham at 01 August 2021, 10:02 PM

Well-established international outfit RAVNKALD unleash their sixth full-length onto the underground black metal scene. Very clearly an intense labour of love for the members involved (and indeed a remote-controlled format that lends itself well to the current pandemic!), they have tried hard to stretch their music in some different directions to keep the sound fresh and interesting.

Opening with “Heilög Vötn”, a brief yet sweet acoustic and spoken word intro – and certainly a little unusual for the black metal genre – there is, unfortunately, a stumble at the first hurdle. Fading into the next track, there is an inexplicable key-change. Perhaps this is only an issue for nerds such as myself, but two tracks that fade into each other should really be in the same key. The track “Nerthus” itself is a solid black metal track, nothing too experimental other than a guitar solo early in the song – again, unusual for black metal! “Circumumbalation” is a bit of a hotch-potch of influences. Herein is the first hint that perhaps these guys are trying to do a little too much at once. To be completely frank, it sounds a little like an attempt to do an ALCEST track in places. Whether or not this is a conscious attempt to take a sideways diversion into blackgaze territory, it ends up feeling a little confused as to what it is trying to be. There’s some genuinely satisfying moments here and there, but we end up with a little bit of whiplash jerking back and forth between styles.

“The Pagan Resistance” returns us to a more conventional black metal sound and, honestly, it isn’t bad! Injection of battle-sounds definitely covers the self-proclaimed ‘pagan’ aspect of the band’s chosen genre-label. “Her Heart Is A Grave” takes an excursion into gothic metal territory, complete with ludicrously low and seductive (well, kinda) vocals. But then we divert back into the black metal lane – less a gentle merging into lanes and more of a “oh crap, I missed the turn!” *screeeeeeeech* “As Cold As Venom” attempts another blackgaze-ish feel, whilst also attempting a kind of bittersweet love song (at least between the harsher black metal segments – as above, it ends up feeling a little jarring). The listener cannot help but feel like the international nature of this project has resulted in a situation where there are competing influences and ideas fighting for dominance.

“The Wind Blowing On The Last Day” again experiments with a kind of blackgaze bittersweet feel, with a fade-out that feels a little sudden – I’m not sure a track should fade out with lyrics still in full flow? “Epicedio – Sage And Whispering Ghosts” continues the bittersweet love song vibe, adding synthesised orchestral elements into the mix, interspersing clean and growled vocals. Speaking of mix, there are a few such issues to address. Presumably due to the international nature of this project, there is a wide variety of quality of equipment (both playing and recording) on display and it is very obvious, in places explicitly so. If all tracks were of roughly the same quality this would be less of an issue, but it is, to say the least, jarring to hear decent guitar and drum tracks next to fuzzy guitars and vocals. Which brings us to the closing track, the imaginatively named “Heilög Vötn II”. The aforementioned fuzzy guitars are on full display here and it’s very grating to the ears. I’m not sure what happened here but for audiophiles like me this is an issue, those less nerdy about such things may be more forgiving.

Overall, what is offered here is quite interesting, if a little confused. There are some engaging moments and sweet melodies, if only this band could decide precisely what it is they are trying to do. Compared to their other material this feels positively experimental, though I think this experiment in part collapses under its own weight, as I said above, because they try to do too many things at once. Stylistically at least it will be interesting to see where the group goes from here. If they decide on a direction and drive down it with unity of purpose, then there’s no reason we cannot expect strong material to follow.

Songwriting: 6
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 6
Production: 5

Score: 6

3 Star Rating

1. Heilög Vötn
2. Nerthus
3. Circumumbalation
4. The Pagan Resistance
5. Her Heart Is A Grave
6. As Cold As Venom
7. The Wind Blowing On The Last Day
8. Epicedio – Sage And Whispering Ghosts
9. Heilög Vötn II
Martyr Lucifer – Vocals
Agöth Sterpe – Guitars, keyboards
Lord Marganor – Drums
Record Label: Sun Empire Productions


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