Written by: AP on 20/02/2018 23:07:04

Considering the stark and merciless grandeur of the Faroe Islands, it might come as a surprise that not all of their 50,000 or so residents play in metal bands. In times of snow, their landscape quite resembles what Immortal imagined the kingdom of Blashyrkh to look like, yet the scarcely populated archipelago has produced remarkably few artists of international renown for the genre — only Hamferð and Týr immediately come to mind. That could be about to change with the arrival of Svartmálm, the 2016 winner of the Faroese edition of W:O:A Metal Battle, however. The band has judged the climate correctly and tapped into the growing demand for new and innovative takes on extreme metal on their eponymous début album, and they emerge from the endeavour triumphant.

Although the raw and unpolished style to which Svartmálm subscribes is unquestionably rooted in the early ‘90s era of Norwegian black metal, the music that meets you in the opening track, “Deytt Ljós”, is far from traditionalist. With a clean tremolo melody, which honestly sounds like the wind howling over the spectacular Cape Enniberg on the island of Viðoy, taking the lead as the rhythm section alternates between a glacial pace and blastbeat-fueled chaos somewhere in the distance, the track provides a good introduction to the ambition underlying Svartmálm’s music. Rather than wallowing in nostalgia, throughout the album the quartet boldly wanders off into doom and post-metal, not caring whether it is Mayhem, Redwood Hill or “Í blóði og anda”-era Sólstafir whom they resemble. The movement between tranquil and ambient instrumental passages, slabs of crushing riffage and plunges into turbid darkness in songs like “Reiðmenn” is as fluid as the four musicians’ loyalty to any one genre, resulting in a varied and dynamic listening experience intertwined with the Faroe Islands in both sound and words.

It is nigh impossible for a non-Faroese person to tell, given the crackling style of his growling, but guitarist/vocalist Deyði sings entirely in his native tongue and strives to incorporate aspects of the Faroese culture into his lyricism where he can. The most notable example of this arrives with the three-part finale, “Svartideyði”, which is inspired by a collection of poems by the artist Øssur Johannesen called “Tá eg hoyri míni einsligu fótafet millum følnaðu heystbløðini” (translated as ”When I hear my lonely steps amongst the withering autumn leaves”) and witnesses Svartmálm at their most progressive and far-reaching. With the exception of the aforementioned “Reiðmenn”, it is within the expanse of these three songs that the standout moments of “Svartmálm” are to be found, whether in the form of the claustrophobia and perfectly timed melodic relief delivered in part II, or the magnificent crescendo which brings the album to its conclusion in part III.

Svartmálm’s ambition thus lacks nothing, but that does not mean that their inaugural effort has no room for improvement. None of the individual songs are truly epiphanic in a way that would leave an instant and lasting impression on the fabric of your memory, making them somewhat difficult to digest. Instead, it is the big picture painted across the album — the sweeping encapsulation of the Faroe Islands’ mystique and atmosphere into 38 minutes of extreme music — that is likely to raise the right eyebrows and kickstart the band’s international career. So although “Svartmálm” is devoid of the immediacy needed to become an instant classic, the potential is there to be harnessed for a breakthrough on an eventual sophomore outing.


Download: Reiðmenn, Svartideyði II: Mánin Litast Reyður, Svartideyði III: Deyðin Nærkast
For the fans of: Auðn, Mayhem, Redwood Hill, (early) Sólstafir
Listen: Facebook

Release date 02.02.2018
Tutl Records

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