Crime Records

Monday, March 3, 2014

Kampfar - Djevelmakt review

Band: Kampfar
Album: Djevelmakt
Label: Indie Recordings
Genre: Pagan Black Metal
Country: Norway
Release Date: 27th Jan 2014

Losing a founder member can derail the best of bands and when said member has also formed part of the core songwriting duo for the best part of two decades, then it can be truly disastrous. A lesser band would have been forgiven for taking the easy route by merely regurgitating and recycling what had come before. Well, clearly then, Norway's Kampfar aren't just any band. Instead of letting this unfortunate development phase them, they refocused their energy, wrote some great songs and have come out of the experience a leaner, more streamlined beast and one that, in hindsight, may have been overly reliant on its core members. On listening to Djevelmakt, it would appear that the band's creativity may have been stifled for too long. That a band almost 20 years into its career - and with members now in their 40's - can release an album with this much passion, energy and pure heart is testament to their tenacity and shows that they genuinely enjoy what they do.

Anyone familiar with Kampfar will have a fairly good idea of what to expect here and for those who haven't heard this superb band yet, I would say the likes of Vreid and Thyrfing could be listed under "similar artists" and whereas all three bands belong firmly in the Pagan Black Metal sub-genre, they also have a special sound that distinguishes them from the crowd.

So what does it actually sound like? Well, the overall sound and feel of this album is almost trance-like and enraptures the listener in a way that is hard to convey in words -  the thundering, hypnotic and almost martial drumming can be a little overpowering on occasion, but they also fit perfectly with the distinctive, harsh rasp of vocalist Dolk and the guitar tone throughout is suitably ice cold. Sharp, ferocious riffs vie for position with the often sublime melodies (just listen to "Kujon") and acoustic guitars and the piano are used sparsely, but to wonderful effect. Not only do these calmer moments counterbalance the heaviness of the more raw Black Metal moments, but they also add the perfect amount of atmosphere to the proceedings, giving the album a more rounded feel and prove that Kampfar have been around long enough to know when to slow it down.

The songs themselves are perfectly crafted, almost to the point of being truly beautiful - a word not often, if ever, associated with the Pagan Black Metal scene - and the production is as good as it needs to be - crisp and clear without being too polished, so the album retains its extreme edge. Despite the underlying and undeniable Black Metal sound, Kampfar have a similar progressive edge to their music as fellow Norwegians Enslaved and although this is without a doubt an extreme metal album, it also manages to be strangely accessible and very easy to listen to (over and over again in my case). Djevelmakt is a genuinely rewarding and remarkable album that keeps improving with each and every listen and stands as a reminder of just how good the Pagan Black Metal sub-genre can be when done properly and a clear indication that there is still a lot of life left in it yet. As their countrymen did before them, back in the infancy of Black Metal, Kampfar are again pushing the boundaries and taking the sub-genre in new and exciting directions.

This is very possibly the finest moments in their long, illustrious career and is absolutely guaranteed a (high) spot on my "best of 2014" list. In fact, this is an early contender for album of the year.

Total Playing Time: 47:17

Overall: 9/10


Blod, Eder og Galle
Swarn Norvegicus
De Dødes Fane
Svarte Sjelers Salme
Our Hounds, Our Legion

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