Written by: EW on 22/10/2008 13:28:33

Drinking from the same pagan and Viking well from which many others reside are Kampfar, a bunch of scraggly Norwegians here celebrating the release of their 4th album "Heimgang" despite a formation back in black metal's heyday of 1994. Similarities can certainly be drawn between the dissonant 'thin' sound of "Heimgang" and the BM wake that was inspired by much of Darkthrone's early work in a land where the drums 'pound' rather than 'crash', vocalist Dolk croaks and shrieks throughout and a distinctly bottom-end-less sound ensures there can be no confusion over whether this sits on the black metal or death metal side of the Viking fence. Despite a tag of BM, the distinct Scandinavian folk influences and pride in "Heimgang" penetrate so deeply that, like the much-missed Windir, there remains an almost upbeat and resolute feel to tunes "Mareham" and "Antvort" that is refreshing in being a) un-Satanic for a change, and b) baring no elitist or kvlt pretenses, a feature which may sound comical to the outsider but is actually such an enjoyment barrier to those into extreme metal with their heads screwed on like myself that the chances of getting into such bands is severely diminished, however good the music.

After an instrumental introduction song that is actually worth the plastic it's on for a change, Kampfar immediately lay the flag for what is to come: rollicking dirty black metal dripping with atmosphere and all the usual requirements of a good BM record (I'm thinking some good solid necro-pounding for a start), combining part Burzum and part Windir to some seriously great effect in "Inferno". Whilst at times the folkish element is noticeably absent, the part being taken by a more standard darkened melodic BM caress, in "Vansinn" thoughts turn to the ultra reticent pagan-metal watchman of Falkenbach. Marrying a 'medieval' feel to the riffs with a guitar sound that could be confused for a keyboard in this and "Mareham" thankfully increases the boundaries that most BM artists dare explore for fear of being labeled 'false' by the blind masses, resulting in music that may be pretty scratchy on the production side but is full of heart both in composition and performance.

I've heard/read much about Dolk's pagan beliefs as well as a dedication and respect towards the natural environment greater than most other bands exhibit. Incase you were wondering if that is obvious in "Heimgang", well it's both yes and no. Yes because a trained ear almost 'knows' that anything this folk sounding in extreme metal territories is going to be the work of someone with strong pagan beliefs (hell, they're hardly going to be Christians are they), however the nature element is as much borne through knowledge of what Kampfar are about as well as just immersing oneself in the atmosphere such bands have chosen to foster, far away from the mainstreams of society.

As some kind of conclusion, "Heimgang" no doubt files under the 'raw black metal' header but comes highly recommended to anyone curious about the genre and is often put off by the pretentious posing and Satanic slant of most. "Vandring" serves as a relaxed ending to the album, summing up what has been excellent about it: "Heimgang" is different, but without having to shout it from the rooftops to let everyone know it is so.


Download: Inferno, Antvort, Vansinn
For The Fans Of: Falkenbach, Windir, Isengard
Listen: Myspace
Buy: iTunes

Release date 26.09.08
Napalm Records

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