Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Skogen: I Döden (2014)

I Döden Do It

When it comes to underground black metal and Viking-ish / pagan-ish metal, I tend to get overwhelmed by the sheer numbers available. Yes, there are incredible releases out there, and they often come from bands I’ve never heard of before. It’s tough to know where to direct my attention. So I download a few promos, a few of them end up on the iPod, and fewer get a complete listen.

Skogen’s I Döden has been sitting on my iPod for months now, and I kept forgetting it was there. When I’m too busy to actually listen to an album, I’ll shuffle all the music, and there have been several times over the course of those months that I said something like, “That’s awesome! Who is that?” As often as not, the answer was Skogen.

Skogen leans toward the Viking end of the spectrum, tending toward mid- and slow-paced riffs with some dramatic synths and clean vocals as well as rasps. Two acoustic tracks are also here. Standouts based on excellent riff-writing are the title track and “Griftenatt.” The riffs seem slightly long, and sometimes surprisingly complex. Closing pair “Svartskogen” and “Sleep” also excel by virtue of drama and epic, unfolding development.

On the downside, Skogen sound like they’re holding at a key point of the album. “Nar Himlen Svartnar” and “Solarvore” sound less like they are building to a dramatic conclusion and more like the band is practicing at a slower pace just to get the chords right. Those are followed by the overlong acoustic “Livets Ruin.” The following track (“Griftenatt”) is good on its own, but too mid-paced to come right after that slump. As a result the record has an initial burst of excellence, but soon drags until the last third.

Your one-sentence review summary: Good songwriting can be found here, but the performance isn’t always great, although a rearrangement of track order could have improved it immensely.

The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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