Written by: AP on 24/01/2016 15:02:57

Despite balancing on the thinnest of tightropes between aping Queens of the Stone Age and defining a sound of their own, Bersærk breathed fresh air into Danish rock music two years ago with their debut EP "Trældom”. There was an aura of confidence about the quartet — seldom seen around newcomer artists — that seemed to empower them, and although the record itself was not perfect, it showed tremendous promise and, at the very least, presented a band with the will and means to create something distinctive. By taking a genre as saturated as stoner rock and painting it in Nordic hues, including lyrics written entirely in Danish, Bersærk certainly manage to stand out, even more so now that those beginner’s creases have been ironed out on their first full-length “Mulm”.

The title of the record (derived from the saying ”i nattens mulm og mørke”, the English equivalent of which would be ”in the dead of night”) has an eerie, fantastical ring to it, but in truth it is to be understood in a surreptitious way. Much of Casper Roland Popp’s lyricism here deals with being mislead by authority figures, though his prose is often laced with a mythological edge. In the opening track “De glemte” for instance, he adapts the line ”Hvem er det der tramper på min bro?” from the Norwegian fairytale “Three Billy Goats Gruff” and rhymes it shrewdly with ”Hvem er det der vover at sætte sig imod?” to set the tone; while in the following “Dæmring” he mourns what he perceives to be an unwitting conversion of the Nordic people from wolves to sheep and issues a rallying call, ”Til alle stammer i Midgaard, husk hvor i kommer fra!”. In “Nordenvind”, he then mocks the irony of politicians accusing each other of lying with a sample of, I think, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen snapping ”…én stor stribe af løgne!”, before ultimately challenging the listener to change perspective in “Nattesyn”; to put on the proverbial night vision goggles and see through the alleged deception: ”Ved du hvad? Vi vender lige om igen. Der er noget jeg har glemt på vejen herhen. Jeg starter fra nul igen, men denne gang med nattesyn.”

This interviewing of the contemporary with northern heritage falls neatly in line with the instrumentation which, for want of better phrasing, sounds like desert rock played on a tundra. There is a startling, atavistic feel to Lars Evers’ guitar playing — both in terms of the tone he uses and the minimalistic infectiousness of his riffs — and it provides an optimal foundation for Popp to thunder and roar his words in a voice that falls halfway between growling and singing, always with sharp dictation, and charged with authority. In liaison with drummer Mads Fjeldvig and bassist Bastian Popp’s jabbing rhythm section, they are able to carve out a style that is neither sludge nor stoner metal, one for which you would be at pains to find an exact replica; Clutch, Orange Goblin and Red Fang are fair comparisons, but far from exact. Songs like “Nordenvind”, which rolls out with an erratic, pummelling start before settling into a heavy, irresistibly groovy drive made all the more powerful by Popp’s almighty voice (not unlike the ‘Goblin’s Ben Ward or Mastodon’s Brent Hinds), do not propose to reinvent the wheel — they subscribe to the stoner metal playbook — but there is a refreshing energy and confidence about them. And by alloying the formula with that idiosyncratic Scandinavian bleakness, Bersærk actually manage to sound pretty extraordinary.

One could argue that the quartet’s ideas are a little one-dimensional sometimes, as virtually all of Evers’ riffs, for example, are built around hammer-on/pull-off patterns and the same dense, murky tone. But by varying the tempo from turbocharged (“Nordenvind”) to bouncy (“Nattesyn”) to lumbering (“Mørke”) to anthemic (“Ulm”), and by condensing their best ideas into a digestible nine tracks, there is still sufficient diversity in “Mulm” to beckon your intrigue throughout. That the record packs a remarkable punch, and has this scent of fearlessness to it plays a big part also, in justifying the plaudits Bersærk have been garnering since the album’s release. It has its imperfections, but with its sheer self-assuredness, “Mulm” is quick to establish itself as one of the better Danish metal releases of recent years.


Download: Dæmring, Nordenvind, Nattesyn, Ulm
For the fans of: Clutch, Orange Goblin, Red Fang, Truckfighters
Listen: Facebook

Release date 30.10.2015
Harzhæreth Media / Osmium Records

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