Svartfell: Apocryphe Apocalypse

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Svartfell: Apocryphe Apocalypse
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Svartfell: Apocryphe Apocalypse
Black Metal
Hass Weg Productions
June 15th, 2012
Release length: 45:53
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Svartfell isn’t too unknown within many of the circles of the Black Metal catacombs. First of all, this a one man project helmed by Valharm, who is involved with Vermeth, and formerly with Iniquus and Monarchia Daemonium among others. This project began back in 2001, and since then has put out two demos, and two albums including 2009’s rather successful Day of the Unholy Massacre through Drakkar Productions. The third full-length, however, will be a strictly limited pressing of one thousand through Hass Weg Productions. With the press release stressing three years of research and real drums instead of a machine, will this be one of the few recordings to break the stereotypical one-man Black Metal band mold, or is it just another unimpressive cliche?

Well, one of the typical traits does rear its head here, which is the raw production quality. But, given the material being performed, it sounds great. The guitars have a nice sharpness to them that is made rough thanks to the audio quality, and the bass is pretty loud in the mix as well, keeping up with the chords nicely to add a blunt edge to the dark and sinister riffs. The vocals are a mix between deeper, harsher rhasps, and a more mid-level range that never gets too high. This works well given the hostile music being performed, which is enhanced by the real drumming. Given the spiteful and poisonous attitude of the material, a drum kit would have greatly hindered the album. Instead, the cymbals are used in moderation but still rather crisp and simply sound great when they are the main focus. The thudding of the bass kicks is pretty loud, giving the music a thunderous sound, especially during the faster or blast beat driven passages, the latter of which are kept to a minimum and used to accentuate the melancholic guitar work and atmosphere. The snares have a dull sound, but they are held back in the mix, aiding the kicks well in keeping a deeper tone to the recording, which just adds to the aggression found in the music.

Unfortunately it does take a little bit to be able to appreciate the audio quality of this release, as Apocryphe Apocalypse actually kicks things off in a bit of a rough manner. The music is strong, and it sets up the tone of the album well, but there are times where it seems a good deal of studio interference came into play. The drums at the very start sound a little off beat with the faster guitars, but they correct themselves rather quickly. Towards the end, it seems as if the song is padded out a bit with some copy and paste techniques, which you’ll notice first around the one minute and fifty seconds mark with a sudden shift in tempo brought on by a split-second of immediate awkward silence that hits a few times more as it begins to fade out at the end. Unfortunately this does appear in other tracks, such as the following “The Crimson Cross,” which is a similarly violent, but richer entry that segways well in and out of blastbeats and melancholic passages. The climax, however, throws the recording more into early first wave Black Metal material similar to something Venom might put together that makes you wish the rest of the track were composed of it. “INRI – Igne Nature Renovatur Integra” steps up as another ruthless offering, hammering away at the drums with some tight guitar work, but around the two-and-a-half minute area, things do thin out a bit for a catchier passage. It works for how short it is, but it’s far from the headbang worthy material that surrounds it, and not as beneficial to the atmosphere throughout.

While this does make for a venomous Black Metal offering, the sinister early first wave ideas incorporated into some of the songs really make the album stand out a bit more. “Baphomet and Death’s Heads” does a good job at this, working in some excellent two-step drumming for a commanding tone before jumping in and out of modern blasting passages thanks to well executed transitions, making it all come off natural. There are slower segments here as well, and they usher in a bit of a colder sound, but due to the audio quality and general aggression that exists, these areas end up far from the frostbitten atmosphere clearly being aimed for. “Asmodee, le Souffle Ardent de Dieu” is another solid entry that blends the Black Metal eras well, though not really treading into the largely blasting material. Yes, there are faster passages, but they are more to accentuate the dismal atmospheres being established by the guitars. Unfortunately, the chorus sounds a little weak thanks to some simpler material, and while catchy, it doesn’t benefit too much from the raw audio style, especially when the awkward silence kicks in and it feels like a copy and paste job once more, such as the last chorus towards the end that sounds tacked on in more ways than one.

Apocryphe Apocalypse is a pretty strong album that fans of the raw Black Metal style are definitely going to enjoy. Breaking the common expectations of one-man projects being largely generic or just flat out bad, Svartfell puts its best foot forward and honestly gives its all to create a truly sinister and intimidating effort. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the lyrics since they were not included, but what you can make out without them sounds pretty knowledgeable for the three year research time outlined in the press release. Once you shake the rough first track, and if you can look past the jarring cuts in the music, you’ll discover a well executed effort that is worth experiencing for more than just having one of the one thousand pressings as a collector’s piece.

01. Terribilis Est Locus Iste – 5:53
02. The Crimson Cross – 5:58
03. Baphomet and Death’s Heads – 5:26
04. Depth of the Sacred Stone – 6:16
05. Asmodee, le Souffle Ardent de Dieu – 5:47
06. The Temple Beneath the Cromlech – 6:07
07. INRI – Igne Nature Renovatur Integra – 4:14
08. Mountains of Doom (Part II) – 4:31
09. Maleficium – Epilogue – 1:41
Overall Score: 8/10
Svartfell (band)
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Physical review copy of this release provided by Svartfell.