Well Of The Highest Knowledge

Yes, yet more pretentious heathenistic Viking mish-mash, definitely one of the most apparent trends in the extreme metal circles since retro-thrash reared its ugly head.

I suppose you know what to expect already, ‘impassioned’ Garm-esque pseudo-falsetto moans fused with clean, warm folk rhythms and guitar lines, and a whole lot of pomp, except this time the crystal-clean production jobs of many of the genre’s leading lights (Mithotyn, Kampfar, Enslaved) has been bereaved for a more lo-fi, underground approach. I suppose this would lend the tape an aura of integrity if it wasn’t for the fact that this is yet another project of notorious wagonhoppers Azaghal, who seem to be intent on capitalizing on every single extreme metal trend known to man.

That’s not to say that this tape doesn’t have its own charm from time to time. Svartalfheim have the other-worldly ability to write some magnificent folk-laden hooks when the mood takes them, and there are a few sections on show here that will have you pressing the rewind button in a most frenetic manner. However, all this charm is dispelled by the horrendous, contrived layer of self-satirical cheese that encrusts parts of this release. The vocalist feels some compulsion to become black metal’s answer to Lee Dorrian, in short. Bizarre vocal exclamations can aid the music in some circumstances, reference: Big Boss Man of Root, but this is just plain unacceptable. I’d be damned if I didn’t hear the words: “oh yeah! Pagan power metal!” in the middle of track two.

All in all, if I was forced to describe the music on show here, I’d say it was an underproduced, demo-stage symbiosis with equal parts of Mithotyn, Otyg and particularly Storm, and (un?)intended chunks of goofiness thrown in for good measure. It is slightly above average, but the incredibly laughable vocal accentuations pilfer much from the listening experience. If that sounds like your sort of thing…


© 2000 equimanthorn