I always thought that Stortregn boasted about the sturdiest metal offering on this blog. Not the blackest, nor the evilest, mind you. But it would qualify as sturdy, no-nonsense Extreme Metal. The take-no-prisoner kind.
The one that comes with some quality oomph, not only noisy dissonance. From one of those bands that are capable to squeeze that steely metal out of the proverbial ore.
Well, Stortregn just saw their throne lobbed out of the window. Gone, into the ditch outside the castle walls.
Because – I guess – we never had the pleasure to meet Kvaen yet, and their debut The Funeral Pyre. And here is the thing. If you fancy red-hot metal that was forged like a Japanese ninjatō and will burn you to a crisp if touched, then this is your band. And they deliver that without bludgeoning you to death with its mighty metal cudgel of theirs.
Kvaen delivers some sort of a thrashy Melodic Black Metal piece on hyperspeed alert. The one that no radar can catch anymore, it is so friggin’ fast. Some sort of Speedy Gonzales on hellishly blackened metallic steroids. A mix between the terrors of Darkend and the darkly savvy and disturbing delivery of Dark Mirror Ov Tragedy. If that makes any sense at all.
Kvaen basically is the fruit of the sole labor of one Jakob Björnfot, solo artist and arranger extraordinaire. For those familiar with RockmusicRaider, we are usually not too fond of those jacks of all trades. Because and almost inevitably, somehow the delivery sucks big time somewhere. And there is only so much a reviewer can do to explain that in nicely worded phrases.
Exceptions do exist, though. The mighty master of SIG:AR:TYR is one for instance. And methinks Mr. Björnfot just joined these august ranks. Because brutal as the outcome may be, The Funeral Pyre contains no real discernible flaws, apart from a few scratches and squeaks at the joints.
You’ll find a ton of guest musicians on this record, though. And this is a good thing. Because, talented as they may be, virtually no musician is really a master with all instruments. So, these contributors will serve as quality amplifiers of sorts.
And it shows. Already the first track – Revenge By Fire – followed me around forever and a day. And pretty much from the moment I had the misfortune to fire it up for the first time. And this first track already shows ye a few of the qualities of The Funeral Pyre. There’s this variety built into the arrangement that I found truly tasty. From superfast to solemnly forward, this track never bores and never gripes.
Then, Yee Naaldlooshii (skinwalker in Navajo, I am told) leads off with a more traditional Black Metal style in a framework a Geisterfels would operate. Much more mid-tempo than its predecessor, but – by Astaroth – this one hooked me somewhat bad, too.
The Funeral Pyre – the title track – gets you one of those rare solos that should not be there. But holy metal cow, I could not stop listening to this. All the more so that this embeds nicely into one of those juicy riffs that you cannot get enough of.
Septem Peccata Mortalia (the seven sins) also impresses with this inherent sturdiness. Yet, it is here that The Funeral Pyre starts to show a certain repetitive pattern. You kinda know where this all comes from, subtly so, but pretty distinct nonetheless.
None of the tracks on this record are bad, most erring at the higher levels of our internal song rankings. Well, almost none. It is a mystery to me, why the instrumental Hymn to Kvenland found its place on the tracklist. Compared to what came before, this sounds pretty boring and kinda out of whack with the rest.
The above notwithstanding, The Funeral Pyre is one of those rare records that put a smile on my face whenever I fired up the disk on our mighty music machine. Kvaen sent a wild mix of Pagan and Viking influences to our turntables. All of that served on an Extreme Metal platter, reminiscent of all that Scandinavian goodness that we enjoyed many years ago.
So, music traveler, if you are looking for trve Black Metal of a kind not often found these days anymore, you might want to fire up this one.
You won’t regret it.
Ed’s note: And the record successfully made it onto the 2020 Top 10 Records. Congrats!