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Svartsyn – Requiem

by Brian Lowrie at 18 October 2020, 6:04 PM

Call me a little biased, but black metal has always been a bit of a “go-to” music genre for myself. There is something so enticing about the rawness, the grandiose song-lengths and the misanthropy that is normally associated with it. However, this can go either way; when it works, it works wonders, and when it doesn’t – it usually ends up being a little bit of an unintended parody of itself. Having never listened to anything from Svartsyn’s catalogue (which dates all the way back to ‘93), I was intrigued as to how the one-man project that’s almost as old I am, has managed to slip under the radar for so long. Thankfully, the new album called “Requiem” is something that works wonders, never faltering in its pacing, bringing an uncured and flat-out pissed sound that reminds you of what black metal used to be.

The album opens with the dismal tornado that is called “Pale Horse”, eventually resolving into a riff that is equal parts haunting and rhythmic. Ornias, Svartsyn’s sole member, relies on instrumentation to set the scene while his vocals are more few-and-far-between; even though vocals are my least favorite part of heavy music, the screams often utilized throughout the album can be described as “effectively nauseating”. I really appreciate this song, if not for anything else, the waltz between the drums and the guitars, always leading each other into the next section, but being careful not to stand out more than the other. “Inner Demonic Presence”, on the other hand, relishes in being more of a thrasher, a song that will make even the most mean-mugged Pabst-drinking hipster want to give his friend a closed fist to the back of the head. Reaching about the halfway point of the song, the directional change into a larger, drone-like passage, that slowly lowers in tempo until it reaches a trance-inducing chord passage for a close. The next track, “Mystery Babylon”, piles on the dissonance and attempts to be one of the busier songs. However, even if the song feels a little free form with the flow, everything is still coherent and still strangely works in its favor.

“The Desolate” starts with a riff that will make your head bang slowly, serving as an omen for a haunting slew of riffs to come. The track is aptly named, as the riffs and composition are huge and colder sounding than what was previously given to us, creating landscapes of calloused loneliness, only to fade out into “Spiritual Subjection”. This track serves like an ambience to ceremonial torches being lit, welcoming an overhanging aura of invigoration. Towards the end of the song, some of the vocal work sounds like the manifestation of a demonic presence, with clashing disharmonies, constant cymbal work and slow guitar bends that will put a pit in your stomach. Last but not least, with probably the most bravado of all the songs, is “Little Horn”; this song takes all of the gut-wrenching dissonance from before and layers it with strangely powerful sound chord voicings and persistent blast beats. Eventually unwinding into more simplistic tremolo riffs and slower and harder hitting drums, the constant contrasting of between these two styles are really what make this song shine. As an end result, the heavy parts are heavier, the faster parts are indeed more scathing. The album ends with a 10 second sample, which might feel out of place at first, but ultimately helps with the resolution of the song.

So, would I recommend this album? As someone who has been looking for a relatively heavy black metal album for ages, hell yes, I would. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this album every time I’ve put it on so far, and it hasn’t dwindled with each listen. Even though it’s only 6 tracks, the whole album is in typical black metal fashion with the run time being about 46 minutes, so the money’s worth is definitely there. This may not be the most innovative record to come out in 2020, and I may be praising it due for scratching an itch I’ve had for a bit; but Svartsyn has been in the business of writing music for almost 30 years, and “Requiem” is certainly a testament to this.

Songwriting : 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. The Pale Horse
2. Inner Demonic Rise
3. Mystery Babylon
4. The Desolate
5. Spiritual Subjection
6. Little Horn
Ornias – Everything
Record Label: Carnal Records


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