Sunday, April 27, 2014

Angantyr - Forvist

The fact that Angantyr, after all these long years, have gotten minimal recognition outside of the underground black metal community (most of which is in Europe) baffles me. Possibly one of the best black metal bands to rise up during the 90s, Angantyr have continued to release masterpiece after masterpiece. This album, released in 2012, was one that apparently slipped past my radar until a few months ago. If you’re not familiar with this band, the official lineup consists of Ynleborgaz, also responsible for Make a Change…Kill Yourself, as well as being the drummer for Profezia and Blodarv. Unlike many one-man black metal projects, Angantyr actually plays live shows with the support of a live bassist and drummer (I assume that Ynleborgaz plays guitar and vocals). But even then, this band seems to have only played in and around Europe with minimal success, and considering that there are several other lower-quality black metal bands that are all about the stage performance doing much better, it’s refreshing to know that there are still bands that have continued to focus on making the best music out there. This is Angantyr’s most recent release, titled Forvist.

Part of the reason why Antantyr doesn’t grab as much attention as other similar bands is the absence of Satanism and cold blasphemy/violence in the lyrical themes; everything Angantyr writes has something to do with Scandinavian/northern European history. Obviously, this means there’s a lot of Viking shit in there! But unlike a lot of other Viking-themed bands like Turisas, Amon Amarth, Tyr, and Ensiferum, Angantyr isn’t all loud n’ proud about it; they don’t have Viking shields and guys in armor battling some mythical sea monster on every album cover; this is the real shit. Somewhat similar to Tyr, Angantyr talks about the extreme hardships the people of Scandinavia were put through. Except the stories that are told in this case are much older and brutal ones; a common theme being that of Christianity being forced onto the people of Scandinavia, causing them to expand their homelands and find new places to settle. But after the release of Sejr in 2007, the themes seemed to move more towards the exploration and discovery side of that era. The fall of England making it an easy target for the Vikings and the brutality that followed. What I’m trying to say is that this shit isn’t the exciting, epic, glorified fairytales that other Viking-themed bands write about; this is the real shit, this is much deeper and darker (much more fitting for the style of music). And to be honest, it’s much more interesting to listen to; it’s much more emotional and has more power behind it that the music can intensify.

The intro to the first song is a stripped-down example of the melodic atmosphere of the entire album. A purely acoustic line backed by the relaxing rolling of waves on the beach, it’s the best intro Angantyr has produced yet. All of Angantyr’s records have a soft, melodic intro, but this one, although shorter than the others, is the most profound and does the best job of setting the mood for the entire album. Another thing that helps make the intro stick more is the intensified melody in the guitar work. In a few of the previous albums, the melody was achieved through the commonly-used method of having a guitar track tremolo picking a single note at a time (the particular note obviously changing with the movement of the song). This method is used on Forvist, but not nearly as often as before. In Forvist and Svig, its predecessor, the guitar melody is implemented into the chords already being played. Ynleborgaz has one (maybe two) backing guitar tracks, the main rhythm guitar tracks, and a second rhythm guitar track that plays everything the main one is along with the added notes to the chords to create the melody. I’m most likely wrong in this assumption, so don’t take my word for it, but this is what it sounds like.

Angantyr is always spot-on with drums. Ynleborgaz’ drumming is spectacular; his blast beats are some of the most solid in the genre, and at the same time doing a great job at keeping things interesting by adding numerous riffs and flairs. The dramatic change that Ynleborgaz has taken on this album is adding larger sections that use completely different tempos and drum patterns. The alternate patterns that he’s always used have been the same ones, but on this album, he creates new ones, as if he finally realized he was overusing those other alternate patterns. The vocals could use to be a lot more powerful; but nonetheless, you can easily hear the emotion behind them. If he were to add some variety in pitch, that would make everything much more interesting and grim, especially if it were growls.

If you are in any way a listener of black metal, you need to pick up this record because it takes you on a journey beyond written description; the atmosphere and melodies are indescribably beautiful. The songs on this album don’t exactly differ from each other to the point of being separate songs. They more so tie together into a seam of raw bleakness. I don’t mind the low production quality of black metal, but there are some cases where it’s stupid. Do the drums really have to be THAT overpowering? Do the vocals have to stick out THAT much? Although this album has the pure rawness that it should have, the mixing work has everything balanced out PERFECTLY so that it flows through your ears like silk. Forvist gets 19/20.