Written by: EW on 15/02/2014 10:00:37

One benefit of my tardiness in reviewing this release has been to witness the stream of eulogising testimonials sung by various media outlets in praise of Kampfar's sixth album, "Djevelmakt", all suggesting that this is a release of staggering proportions worthy of hallowed top-end marks. Such critiquing sent me back to the album more times than I would normally gift a promo release and yet still, try as I may and with a passion for their fourth record "Heimgang" that still burns strong, do I struggle to see quite what everyone is fussing about. "Djevelmakt" bears a much stronger relationship with 2011's "Mare" than "Heimgang", the two of which form the third 'pairing' of the band's discography. This is most notable in the extended track lengths and varying structures employed by the band today as gone are the shorter, snappier songs based primarily around one or two leading riffs, having been superseded by slower evolving ones, less reliant on the archetype Norwegian black metal dissonance and a greater embrace of synth and avant-garde textures. It overall adds upto an intruiging release, strong on artistic merit yet at times bloated by its own nomenclature.

Opening proceedings with heavy piano chords in "Mylder" before the crash symbal heralds a slow, boisterous rhythmic riff which encapsulates the meatier production employed by Kampfar today, albeit with the ice cold heart that is part of their heritage. The song progresses through strained clean vocals and a folky flute passage, which despite it's jarring juxtaposition to the main bulk, fits in rather convincingly. "Kujon" at times reminds me of Vreid (and by extension the mighty Windir) with the flourishing leads that burst out from the pulsating rhythm of the song, although here I think a greater degree of virtuosity would have been welcome (an element that has never been a consideration of Kampfar's setup). "Blod, Eder og Galle" melds a synth backing with the most blistering tempo of the lot but at 6½ minutes I do feel the track could have been trimmed for brevity, an accusation that could equally be levelled at some others across the album at large.

The archetype Kampfar power is shown in "De Dødes Fane" which breaks from one pulsating riff to another under a varied vocal performance from mainman Dolk, who shrieks and speaks in his estimable manner accompanied by classically influence string synth which adds a nice layer of pomp and majesty to the piece, notably better interwoven than the synth of many other fok and pagan acts. As the only track under 4:40, "Svarte Sjelers Salme" does away with much of the avant-garde textures which subtly influence the record as a whole, resting on a melodic BM riff of Gorgoroth notability and veering between a sterling lead riff and treble heavy rhythm before bridging into a crashing verse section. Closer "Our Hounds, Our Legion" pounds akin to a Thyrfing track early on with that dark synth building block and the kind of sweeping riff that itself could be conducted through an ensemble on strings as befitting much of extreme metal's cultural influence from bombastic classic music, while Dolk's latterly clean vocals project an earthly humanist side that is not always apparent through the abrasive howls.

There is a great sense of maturity on display throughout "Djevelmakt", much more than can be sensed in a solitary listen to the album. Subtle classical nods mix with excellent, dark metal riffs and pained expressions in providing a broad array of colour and feeling that sees Kampfar slowly expand on their resume without abandoning their proud Nordic roots, creating an album that despite a few areas for improvement is capable of appealing to seasoned black metallers and those with only a passing interest in the genre.


Download: De Dødes Fane, Svarte Sjelers Salme
For The Fans Of: Vreid, Thyrfing, Moonsorrow
Listen: Facebook

Release date 27.01.2014
Indie Recordings

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