Vildhjarta

Måsstaden under vatten

Written by: KW on 14/10/2021 19:52:35

From the foggy bogs of Sweden, the progressive colossus that is Vildhjarta has finally fully awoken from a far too deep slumber. Ten excruciatingly long years I — and many others — have waited for this day to come, when one of the most unique and groundbreaking bands of the djent movement of the early ‘10s release their second full-length album since the masterpiece that was “Måsstaden”. The day has finally arrived, and as a consolation the long wait, this new foray into darkness titled “Måsstaden under vatten” clocks in at a mountainous 80 minutes, split into two parts — a runtime that both excited and worried me when the news first dropped, as double records can easily fall into the trap of being bloated with filler. Yet after ten years, who the hell am I to complain that we’re getting too much new Vildhjarta?

As soon as the fragmented chaos of “lavender haze” hit me, the sceptic in me was put to sleep instantaneously. The adoration I have for this band came crashing back in full force: the Meshuggah-esque, syncopated polyrhythms, the impossibly low-tuned guitars, the unparalleled atmosphere, and the labyrinthian song structures are all back in droves. It is the perfect blend of nastiness and beauty; brooding horror and somber serenity always in a constant struggle to be at the forefront, creating this volatile mass of sound that is both terrifying and, at times, calming to listen to. But more so than ever, there is a pretty clear melancholic undertone to be found beneath the chaos, even at its heaviest. Like the flickering synths at the end of “när de du älskar kommer tillbaka från de döda”, the desolate slide riffs of “den helige anden (under vatten)”, or the wailing, inharmonic bends of “mitt trötta hjarta”, there is a palpable sadness present in the material that provides an interesting dimension to the otherwise chaotic nature of the record.

One criticism I could level at the album is its pacing. As it turns out, most of the more experimental and unique tracks are found in the second part of the album, leaving the first part to sound a little too similar and causing some of the tracks to start blending together. Do not get me wrong: it is still really good, and the style of Vildhjarta is still so utterly unique that I cannot fault them much for keeping to what made them so beloved in the first place. Yet the second half of this monster is where some of Vildhjarta’s best material truly comes to light. There are the intense, shouted vocals of “vagabond”, which almost veers into anthem territory and culminates in a hellish breakdown of feedback. The haunting chasm of ambience in “phantom assassin”. The strangely uplifting “sunset sunrise”, even though it is tuned so low that going any lower might just open a black hole, and its twin-track “sunset sunrise sunset sunrise” (yes, that is indeed its name), which pummels you with blast beats in one moment and melancholic chugs in the next. The fast, raging intro of “penny royal poison”. And the strangely uplifting outro of the enormous, ten-minute closing track “paaradiso”, which sounds like it is violently ascending out of the darkness and into the light. These are all moments that cement Vildhjarta as true artists in their field and you will be hard pressed to find anything that sounds quite like this.

However, even though I find the second part to be the most diverse and enjoyable overall, I simply have to direct attention to one track from the first section that drew the biggest reaction from me: “måsstadens nationalsång (under vatten)”. Since it partly shares its title with a track from their first record, I had a feeling something was going to go down when I reached this the first time. Holy. Shit. I was not ready at all for the onslaught that this turned out to be. I will not spoil too much as I want fans of the first record to be able to have the same mind-melting experience I did — all I will say is that this is one of the most legendary displays of fan-service I have ever heard a band put together.

“Måsstaden under vatten” is not an easy experience to unravel — trust me, I had to sit through numerous listens before I even began to think about writing my first thoughts about it for this review. It is enveloping, beautiful, anxiety-inducing, sorrowful, chaotic, unbelievably heavy, but also almost unforgiving in it’s massive size and unrelenting nature. I think Vildhjarta are the perfect example of modern metal music as art, and as all challenging art, it takes some effort from the consumer to fully appreciate. If you do put in the effort though, one of the most uniquely harrowing sonic experiences of the year will in turn consume you.

9

Download: när de du älskar kommer tillbaka från de döda, måsstadens nationalsång (under vatten), sunset sunrise, penny royal poison, paaradiso
For the fans of: Humanity’s Last Breath, Meshuggah, Uneven Structure
Listen: Facebook

Release date 15.10.2021
Century Media

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