On the 23rd of March, the Norwegian band Djevel has released through the old trusty Aftermath Music its 5th opus titled Blant Svarte Graner (Among Black Grains). The whole concept of the album is based upon the Black Death which silently swept through Europe between 1347 and 1351, wiping out almost half if of its population.
This latest record is a quintessence of all the previous band’s releases, compiling all the (good) elements the band composed before and giving them a full grown and complete shape. I would say that with this album the band has reached a new level, a level of complete maturity and skillfulness.
Several line up changes have taken place last year, changes which helped a lot to this improvement (and progress, after all). The first good thing that happened was Mannevond taking care of the vocal parts (after all he’s been the main growler in Koldbrann since 2001), his harsh, barking voice suiting better Djevel‘s purposes than the former singer Erlend Hjelvik (Kvelertak).
The second good thing (and very a important one, in my humble opinion) was the addition of the legendary Bard Faust (Emperor, Blood Tsunami) behind the drum kit, instead of the departed Dirge Rep (Enslaved, Orcustus amo), who nevertheless did a very good job on the previous albums. Faust has brought a new, fresh breath to the band and even if he’s not a speed fanatic, he provides a perfect balance between the really fast and addictive parts and the slow, more introspective rhythms, where the double bass really makes it count.
If someone would ask me what recent black metal album resembles the most to the majesty of the ’90s Norwegian black metal catalogue, I would immediately recommend Blant Svarte Graner as a worthy successor of early Satyricon, early Ulver or even Emperor. This release has everything a nostalgic person looks for and Djevel was able to perfectly incorporate all the elements which make Blante Svarte Graner such a great album, both old and new at the same time.
Its 9 tracks are not only a tribute to the mighty past but also a strong manifest of the present and why not, even future. Now I can definitely say that at least for me there is still some hope left, not everything is lost and if more bands would create such powerful works, then maybe black metal, as I know it and love, will not disappear.
As a whole, every song stands out for itself but it’s together when the songs merge with full power, giving the final shape to this black metal monster.
Every track is important in the construction of this release, but for me 2 tracks stand out from this incredible record, like two pillars upon which its foundation is constructed: Paa Vintersti Skal Hun Synge en Gravsang Som Aldrig Ender and Banker Som Doedningeknoker, where the latter represents exactly what the true Norwegian black metal is about: aggression, chilling riffs, impetuous blast beats and a cold, sinister atmosphere.
The 2 songs mentioned above are quite long (10’+) but you will never get bored during the listen. Their length is absolutely justified by the whole atmosphere they create and which they immerse the listener in. While Paa Vintersti Skal Hun Synge en Gravsang Som Aldrig Ender is more melancholic and represents the slower part of the album, Banker Som Doedningeknoker is a fast paced song which, in the first half contains a wall of sharp riffs and demented blast beats, abruptly cut down in the middle by an apparently out of place acoustic passage, only to resume its ending part with aggressive riffs which provide a huge feeling of hopelessness and depression.
Whenever I listen to this particular track I imagine a group of cloaked men wearing strange masks on their faces, walking around the country side gathering the dead bodies of those killed by the plague in huge, nameless piles, before setting them on a cleansing fire.
The album lasts for almost an hour, but very much would have been missed if the duration were shorter. The whole record is based on this dichotomy between aggression, so typical for the Norwegian scene, and sad atmosphere, with acoustic guitar interludes (see the two superb instrumental tracks, “Saa Begynner Det” and “Alt Som Her Var Er Naa Borte“, which open and close the circle of death on this album).
For the first time in the band’s career the lyrics have been printed in the booklet and after a closer reading (google translate rules), I can say they are a bit different than the usual verses one can expect from a black metal band. While still inspired by obvious anti christian feelings, they are both extremely visual and “romantic” at the same time.
I totally like that Djevel have chosen this approach, as there are also other sinister topics to play about, with the same horrific effect than the average blasphemies and overtly satanic messages almost every band sings about these days.
This album wouldn’t have been complete without a proper cover, so this time too Djevel took care of this aspect and made sure that Danny Larsen delivered one of his most beautiful works from his portfolio, Som ensom sjel jeg vandret / As a lonely soul I wandered, to accompany the music on “Blant Svarte Graner“. The black and white painting depicting a scary snowy forest landscape is the exact quintessence of the concept Djevel sings about on this majestic release.
A release which represents one of the best albums of this year so far and which also reminds us of the glorious days of the ’90s, when black metal was indeed beautiful and frightening at the same time. A definite must have, which can be ordered from here, in different formats. Highly recommended!
10 out of 10 inverted crosses.
Blant Svarte Graner tracklist:
1. Saa Begynner Det
2. Der Er Ikke Spor Af Mennesker
3. De Danser Rundt Sopelimet Som Om Den Var Deres Mor
4. Paa Vintersti Skal Hun Synge En Gravsang Som Aldrig Ender
5. Naa Er Hele Livet Paa Ravnens Bord
6. Det Svartner Paa Likbleik Hud
7. I Denne Gamle Falne Kirke
8. Banker Som Doedningeknoker
9. Alt Som Her Var Er Naa Borte
Mannevond – Bass/Vocals
T. Ciekals – Guitars, clean Vocals
Faust – Drums