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Black metal in Norwegian

There are more norvagisms out there than "ombudsman", "fjord" and "quisling". The foreigners play black metal in Norwegian.


[metal] There was a time when the black metal environment in Norway was small, and everyone knew everybody. At that time the music police ruled, which enforced two laws:

I. You have to be compliant.

II. You have to be distinctive.

This meant, in a sense, that one should be black metal properly. You shouldn't play black metal, you should be black metal. One should wear the same black clothes, heavy footwear, makeup and nails. But one should also cultivate one's own voice, and have one's own style.

That's why Darkthrone sounded different than Burzum, which sounded different than Thorns, which sounded different than Mayhem, which sounded different than Immortal, which sounded different than Emperor, which sounded different than Arcturus, and so on. . But the list couldn't be that much anymore, because there weren't that many bands, and the environment was still small, and the music police could easily enforce the two laws of black metal. Another complicating factor was that many considered satanic lyrics a necessary and sufficient criterion for the music to be black metal. That's how heavy metal band Mercyful Fate and death metal band Deicide ended up as black metal band.

Generic black metal

But the environment grew, and the bands grew more and more. The old bands continued to be peculiar, increasingly less compliant, but still agreed on where the boundary went for still being black metal. Many bands that had experienced the strict police regime began to release albums, bands such as Ulver, Dimmu Borgir, Dødheimsgard, Satyricon and let us not forget Ancient.

The single The Forgotten Kingdom (1994) with the band Ancient was the first case of generic Norwegian black metal I became acquainted with. Ancient is the first band that lives only according to Norwegian black metal's first law, but does not comply with the second. There were probably many who played Norwegian black metal without properties around the country, but Ancient was the first to release it on record. This record marked the beginning of a downward trend in Norwegian black metal.

And it is in this tradition that Greek Ravencult has settled. Back then, in the old days, you could hear right away that a band was Greek. You heard it at Rotting Christ, Necromantia, Varathron and Thou Art Lord. The Greek national signature was as clear as the Norwegian one.

But Ravencult doesn't sound Greek. They sound Norwegian, in this generic, idle way. They only relate to the first law of black metal police, the one that you have to be compliant. And it might work as a short-term strategy for a band, much like when Chinese bands do everything they can to sound like a western band, to make success in their own domestic market. After all, not many artists like Linkin Park or Nelly Furtado play in China, not so much anyway, so there is a home market for copyists.

But with Greek Ravencult it is just strange, all the time they release their debut album in Norway on a Norwegian company, and sounds like (Norwegian) Immortal in 1993, only with a slightly different sound, and maybe a few more elements of Swedish Bathory. Did anyone say "selling sand in the Sahara"?

Raw and aggressive

French Blut aus Nord hardly sounds like a black metal band at all. They are a band of the type that ranks in the Music Police Act number one, and who only recognize law number two.

MoRT is the band's fifth album, and does not sound strictly like black metal at all, not as we are used to thinking about it. Rather, MoRT sounds like the English industrial metal band Godflesh, on one of their previous albums, such as Streetcleaner (1989). And while this comparison may not quite hit, it does raise an interesting question: Is MoRT, with its dissonant and piping guitars, interwoven into a kind of reluctant counterpoint, with its programmed, industrial-sounding, rhythms a good black metal album? It is obvious to answer no: You do not create a better album within one genre by switching to another. And the excess elements here are too few.

No, then it is better with Austrian Abigor, who recently released his seventh album Fractal Possession. Here we can hear the classic tension in a band that would like to blast the framework for black metal as a musical expression, but who would also very much like to maintain and honor what they perceive as real black metal, a raw and aggressive expression. The album is full of progressive song structures, electronic effects and brand-new guitar twists.

The texts are largely concerned with technology, which is revealed, among other things, by song titles such as "3D Blasphemy" and "Injection Satan", where classic satanic black metal motifs are drawn from the spirit sphere into a physical-materialistic reality. Sometimes this generates powerful images, other times it reminds us of the time when it was exciting and exotic with its own personal website.

Fractal Possession has been compared to the album Supervillain Outcast by the Norwegian band Dødheimsgard, a comparison which is basically rather superficial. Fair enough, both bands make use of electronic effects, and use a lot of the same chords in the riffs. To the extent that the comparison has anything to say, this applies in the balance between the two laws of the music police, between being well-adjusted and pioneering. As I said to the boring thing in this article: This is where it happens. ■

Reviewed by Svein Egil Hatlevik

(who played on the Dødheimsgard records

Satanic Art and 666 International)

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