Hyrdra Head Records
Bergraven’s Dödsvisioner melds an almost post-punk sense of angular dread and atmospherics to the black metal template. Faith-era Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees and the classic output of British label 4AD can be heard amidst the more abrasive sounds, making for a fascinating mix of melancholic restraint and bloodthirsty noise-mongering. Sole member Pär Gustaffssons brings poise and compositional chops to the more solitary one-man black metal experiment, resulting in top-shelf, quality metal that’s well recorded and even better executed. Candlemass came to mind as did Emperor, Prong, Ulver and even Neurosis.
This dude takes his work seriously and consciously sets himself apart from the black metal hordes both in terms of visual and ideological signifiers (or lack thereof) and more elegant sonic detours. But does that mean that Dödsvisioner ain’t heavy? Hell no, friend! The vocals are killer reptilian gurgles and shudders, often departing from traditional verse-chorus-verse to offer incantations and curses, the drums sound immense and echoey, electronics and other odd instrumentation enters into the mix at unexpected intervals without being showy afterthoughts and those guitars. Oh the guitars — like glittering scalpels, precise and unhurried, bolstered by rumbling distortion and a teeth-grinding crunch.
Check out the vicious riffery in “Känsla Av Livets Nästa Skede,” just as likely to give an Immortal fan pause as it would, say, a Testament devotee. Moments like this beg for a live show. (Though again, this seems unlikely, Gustaffssons has no patience for most of the trappings of being in a “band,” be it black metal or otherwise.) “Ekot Av Bikt” as well has over-the-top intrusions of thrash riffing that would surely fill a pit, before the song abruptly fades back into chiming guitar lines and echoed whispers — like a death-tinged Modern Lovers, constantly trying to keep a lid on the chaos of noise until tortured screams erupt, natch. How about that Pixies-esque bassline on “Den Svarta Angstens Essens?”
Sometimes the clipped, clean guitar strumming and bass interplay almost reminds me Killing Joke. The instrumental “Det Man Med Själen” rests on a foundation of cold-wave, gothic guitar interludes and haunted house atmospherics, building and building, to … what? Silence. The album begins and ends, built around the same elliptical guitar motif (“Lullaby”-era Cure); a reprise of “Doende” but slowed down to a funeral, elegiac, doomy crawl.
There’s all these weird off-ramps and doodles that almost bring to mind a occult John Fahey and, fuck me, the record is all the richer for it. Unhurried, songs shift and meander through dark corners and unspoken regrets, but the whole of Dödsvisioner is bird-on-a-wire tense, anxious, and emotionally richer than what you’ve come to expect. Truly individual and worthwhile artistry.
Hydra Head: www.hydrahead.com