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Svartidauði - Revelations of the Red Sword

Svartidauði
Revelations of the Red Sword
by Martin Knap at 26 November 2018, 3:30 PM

There are articles being written, podcasts made and even a photography book published about Icelandic Black Metal, so you know it’s definitely “a thing”. As I see it, Black Metal went through a sort of an identity crisis in the last past two decades. “Orthodox” Black Metal – i.e. Black Metal grounded mainly in the sound and aesthetic of the Norwegian Second Wave of Black Metal – was becoming a bit cliché and overdone, Atmospheric Black Metal morphed into Post-Black Metal or became too “pretty” and detached form it’s roots in some people’s views. Luckily there were bands that experimented with the sound and injected new life into the music. The new crop of Black Metal bands – that includes many bands from Iceland – are particularly indebted to DEATHSPELL OMEGA and their trademark dissonant sound, thick atmosphere and forward-thinking songwriting – but I would say also to their aesthetic and philosophy.

SVARTIDAUÐI have been around for quite some time now and are one of Iceland’s best known Black Metal bands together with MISÞYRMING or SINMARA. (The former band’s great debut “Söngvar elds og óreiðu” was my introduction to that scene and I highly recommend it to anyone new to Icelandic Black Metal.) Even though they were around since 2002, “Revelations of the Red Sword” is only their sophomore album that is coming out six years after their debut. With an album so long in the making we surely shouldn’t expect something half-baked and SVARTIDAUÐI indeed delivers well composed and thought through music. The album is almost 50 minutes long, with four songs between five and eight minutes long and two long ones – the closer “Aurem Lux” clocking almost at the twelfth minute mark.

All the songs have a thick, bleak atmosphere and constantly move through peaks and valleys. The dissonant riffs are often fairly technical for Black Metal and the guitar playing overall is intricate without being out of place (no flashy solos or anything like that). The changes are subtle – since this is Black Metal and not Prog there are obviously no explosive choruses or mellow atmospheric passages – but there is a sense of constant progression building up to a moment of catharsis. Songs usually go from mid-tempo brooding to explosive and aggressive or vice versa. There isn’t much that feels catchy or immediately stands out, but there are surprises – subtle, unexpected touches – such as a long sludgy instrumental section in “Reveries of Conflagration” or an almost catchy riffs that whipped out in the middle of the last song. The album is coherent, it builds as a whole to the closing song before it burns out.

I can appreciate what SVARTIDAUÐI are doing here. They play Black Metal that is evil, “orthodox”, but at the same time not clichéd. There is really nothing pretty or catchy about this music – this is not for casual listening. You have to let the music sink in and appreciate the subtle details. In other words, it is not for everyone (nor is it supposed to be) but you will find it rewarding if you have the right disposition.

Songwriting: 8
Memorability: 7
Originality: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Sol Ascending
2. Burning Worlds of Excrement
3. The Howling Cynocephali
4. Wolves of a Red Sun
5. Reveries of Conflagration
6. Aureum Lux
Lineup:
Magnús – Drums
Þórir – Guitars
Sturla Viðar – Vocals, Bass
Record Label: Van Records
     


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Edited 15 December 2018
 

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