Vargavinter – Frostfödd (1996)

A single-release project from Sweden, Vargavinter play a style of black metal that could accurately be described as melodic and ‘ripping’, ‘pagan’ and ‘symphonic’ without falling into any of those narrow misnomers. By holding its influences together into a pointed lance-tip, the music is able to maintain a dignified character as it preserves a certain aggression. The driving, aggressive impetus is able to stand even major chord progressions without disassembling its unitary momentum into constituent mediocrity.  When such disintegration takes place, subpar passages arise, and the music is no longer black metal, but ‘pagan’ or ‘progressive’, for instance. This process entails a frequent alternation of outstanding and mediocre moments in Frostfödd which make of it a tragedy.

But the tragedy has not to do with mood alone, which focused black metal can handle if well-constructed, but rather with the weakening or interrupting of its flow but what are perceived as unwarranted incursions into stylistically foreign territories. What is important to highlight here is that, while many have conjectured that black metal (and indeed art in general) is about individuality, it is more precisely about authenticity. This is revealed by a more accurate assessment of the achievements of the genre, and a sensible living-in the music as we internalize it. We can say of authenticity, without digressing into a different conversation which is philosophically beyond the capabilities of this writer, that it is the attempt of the individual to approach a perfect, undifferentiated state of manifestation —or perhaps more accurately before manifestation, and hence differentiation, takes place.

There is no single track on this album that has not majestic moments of black metal purity, however undifferentiated. But authentic music like black metal shines not when it overtly and consciously seeks a voice of its own, that is, chasing after a way to be ‘different’. Rather, using the sharp end of what became the black metal musical discovery, good black metal is narrow and similar in its use of technique, sound ‘device’ and general mood. It is from this parting point that personality arises from the tendency of the hand to wander in a particular way unique to the artist. Then comes the sound judgement of the individual, adding yet another, higher layer of personal filtration to the coagulating music. Problems in the music of Vargavinter become patent when it sacrifices flow, power and momentum for the sake of introducing more ‘unique’ sections full of clumsy expression that are always out of place. A loss of connection to a primordial source, and with previous sections makes this more apparent.

Some of the songs here, like “Älvdans,” start with a perfect power chord phrase of flowing intensity underscored beautifully by percussion, only to be interrupted by disappointing narrative elaborations. In the case of this specific song, the infringement first comes in the form of a power metal passage at 0:32 that interrupts what could have been an intense alternation of the opening section with the arrangement that comes in at 0:50. Even more painful is the complete obliteration of momentum that occurs at 1:24, leaving us wondering what the music is going on about. Black metal comes back at 1:50, in a riff that could also have been linked directly with the aforementioned 0:00 and 0:50 arrangements. This third riff is quickly variated, and followed by the only valid dissipation of power between 2:30 and 2:40, from which we hear a slower but no less full surge of energy rise. The effect is that of a stream crashing on rocks on its way, but after which the current gathers momentum yet again. At 3:33 the power metal riff that was so inappropriate comes in, but strangely, it does not feel out of place, and leads incredibly well into the 3:53 section which was heard previously at 1:07. We then see the return of the castrating slow section from 1:24, this time at 4:10, as the band attempts to finish this song off.

To be sure, not all songs have the same proportion of good and bad arrangements, but it is the poor structuring that cripples the music even more. When one separates the worthy from the less desirable section arrangements in each song, we can appreciate that there is enough material in each track for short, bursty black metal that is nonetheless dignified and exciting [1]. Each single song on this album has at least one amazing riff of immense destructive power, but unfortunately it seems as if Vargavinter had constructed songs around rather than flowing from them.


[1] Refer to the immortal 11:20 minutes of Uranium 235 Total Extermination (1995) distributed along four unblemished tracks. What Uranium 235 majestically achieved in this solitary demo, others have searched for without fruit across hours of albums upon albums.

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One thought on “Vargavinter – Frostfödd (1996)”

  1. bloody pulp says:

    i kinda like it. you’ll get me listening to black metal yet, DARG.

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