Finally. Here is to a band that embarks on a journey back to the roots of darkness. Black Metal in its ’90s Scandinavian robe. A time when the genre was a serious and often seriously dangerous affair, with church burners and real psychos that bounced all over the soundscape. Burzum, early Ulver, Bathory, and others come to mind. So, what better time than a stormy winter’s day to really get going with this record.
These days, Extreme Metal bands with a taste for all sorts of elements from the large pool of overused blackened undercurrents often deploy sumptuously lush productions. Elements that – under the olden rules – really won’t get any traction.
It is thus refreshing to find a stickler for the original firebrands of Black Metal. Those that were – and often still are – kvlt to many a metalhead out there.
And truly, Sagenland‘s new record Oale Groond will provide relief if you are on Black Metal cold turkey. Very reminiscent of the piece Geisterfels delivered a few years back, the album sports that downturned, somewhat frugal sound many crave. Those echoes of the past that seem to roll down from the snowy hills of Norway, high-pitched rasps and all included.
Yet, the record is not all underground, at least not too far. Or – perhaps – not deep enough down in the tunnels to please the die-hard adepts of the trve lore. Because the real blackened metal heart abhors all kinds of impurities, and here we did find a few. And that’s blasphemy, ain’t it?
Let me explain.
At first sight, Oale Groond gets you that typical Black Metal wall of sound, with those traditional Extreme Metal sounds that should kick it up a notch. Typical barebone drum work, tremolos as far as the ear can hear, and those straight-in-your-face rasps that relentlessly attack your eardrums. So, we should be firmly anchored in the traditional and somewhat psychotic realm of Gaahl and Varg. Or should we, now?
Because after a few listens, you suddenly realize that there is a pretty abstract bass firing hot interference in the background. And this actually renders this album much more interesting all of a sudden. In other words, there is that hint of a progressive flavor where there should be none. And that is anathema to the trve lore, I get that. But whoever said that Sagenland absolutely needed to adhere to those unwritten rules, right?
And there’s still more to Oale Groond than meets the ear. What sounded like an uninterrupted barrage of red-hot rasps and screams, suddenly finds itself in the midst of some pretty surprising clear voice chanting. Sagenland would not be the only band with that specific itch, of course. Yet, the record continuously discharged those little unexpected surprises to beef things up some more.
The boys of Sagenland also often use acoustic guitar to mark a break or add a bit of Habanero to their metal. Folk and Black Metal often march hand-in-hand on this record. And that is not necessarily unusual. Injecting folklore and Pagan Folk surely is no novelty in Extreme Metal. These genres are often used to supplement or even replace the metal on display.
So, as the record of a very svelte 32-minute-plus progresses, the levels of melodic elements increase. And this saves the piece from becoming a ubiquitous dime-a-dozen Nordic Black Metal blurb. Instead, it morphed into something much more substantial. And deservedly so.
So, in the end, Oale Groond surely won’t break any world record of out-of-the-box Black Metal recordings. And it was never meant that way. Instead, to avoid simply copying the works of former extreme metallists, the band injected subtle small changes. And this inclusion of veiled prog by bass and some folk created a pretty remarkable album. One that stays with its blackened roots with enough juicy variations to please this crowd.