Vemod – Venter på stormene

a3600831986_10Is there a genre that comes even close to being as inundated with nostalgia as black metal? If there is, I’m not aware of it. For a genre as frigid, solitary, and apparently misanthropic as black metal is, it’s drowning in as much warm, fuzzy sentimentality as a saturated Polaroid of a fading Daguerreotype. It’s this nostalgia, coupled with the rejection of ‘new’ death metal, that served as one of the primary compelling forces in the genre’s explosion (or reemergence, depending on your point of perspective) in the 90s. It wasn’t a retroactive approach to the genre alone that forged music so brilliant and magical that we still can’t stop talking about it 20 years later, rather it was the way that a plethora of key bands in Scandinavia, Finland, Greece, Poland, and to a lesser extent many other places, used the black metal of the 80s as a foundation for something new; imbuing a new spirit into the music and expanding the genre in directions it had never been and could not have gone before. There’s a reason bands like Mayhem, Dissection, Immortal, Rotting Christ, and many others are hugely popular today, while few remember or care about those bands that lacked the same backward-and-forward looking vision like Incarnator. If Venter på stormene, their first full-length, is any indicator, Vemod from Trondheim is likely to be a band remembered for a long time indeed…

The first side, “Over jord, vandrende”, opens the gates of the self-titled track with an icy tremolo melody, vigorous blast-beats, and the growls and barks of the vocalist. It’s clear from this early point that Vemod is drawing a lot from their Norwegian black metal heritage, but it quickly becomes apparent that they’re taking the album in a slightly different direction. The analogue production suits the album well, with a full, slightly sharp and clangy tone to the guitars and clean and natural sounding drums. E. Blix’s vocals are a deeper and more gravelly howl than might be expected for material like this, often reminding me of Kaldrad from Branikald or Garm from Ulver’s first two albums. This initial riff shifts into a more triumphant, but also tense, melody, complete with clean chants rising high into the night sky alongside the guitars. At this point and others, the album has a similar feel to Bergtatt, in that it isn’t producing any ‘evil’ airs, though it should be mentioned that Venter på stormene does not have any folk elements. The song progresses in satisfying manner, with peaks in the form of exultant tremolo melodies and valleys in the slower, open-arpeggio driven moments. It has a nice density of sound to it, with chorus vocals, deep screams, creative yet tasteful drum work, wailing guitars, and rattling bass all forming a very cohesive whole, but just when you’ll start to expect that you have this song more or less figured it out, it subtly fades off into a brief, cold and glittering synth exploration, before finally bursting into yet another chest-swelling tremolo melody.

The first song has an epic, in the truest sense of the word, sense of songwriting to it. It’s not just a tune to tap your feet or band your head to (though it certainly provides more than enough impetus to do so if you’re so inclined), it’s a song that takes you on an inner journey into the deep of the woods and over the edge of the sky, and the rest of the album sticks with this highly emotive and adventurous essence of composition. “Ikledd evighetens kappe” closes out the first half of the album. It’s characterized by a slightly livelier collection of riffs, carefully accented with subtler, more open riffs in the backdrop of the sound. It has a similar triumphant mood to “Venter på stormene”, though it does feel a bit more urgent. It too fades out around halfway through, this time taking a longer reflection between the wild and stormy moments of metal. Rather than synth, this moment is driven primarily by clean guitars. You can feel the winter, night winds biting at your face during this relatively quiet and contemplative moment. Vemod are hesitant to label themselves black metal, favoring instead the term ‘dark ethereal metal’ for this release, and it’s readily apparent why. This material obviously springs from the heritage of black metal, but the tone and intention are quite different, giving the album a unique and fresh air (and no, it’s not ‘post-black metal’). This second song closes out on another glorious feeling moment, with bright, incandescent tremolo riffs that undulate and shift like the northern lights draped across the northern sky.

The second side, “Over himmel, flammende”, is entirely instrumental and carries a more meditative spirit than the first. It’s here that the ethereal part of “ethereal dark metal” comes into play. “Altets Tempel” is the first song of this side, and it’s an entirely synthesizer based ambient track, covering a lengthy 13 minutes. Now, ambient interludes are from uncommon in this sort of music, but the instances in which they are actually strong songs in themselves, and I mean really good, not just serviceable, are a rarity. Thankfully, Mr. Åsli is no amatuer to this sort of music, being the sole member of the project Astral Winds himself, and this is an excellent example of an ambient track. It has a strong variety of textures and sounds (the organ is grand…), and a perfect balance between ethereal drones and hushed melodies. It’s as reminiscent of classic Steve Roach as much as it is Burzum‘s electronic moments, and more than holds it’s own on the album.

This moment of relative piece is followed by the final track, “Å stige blant stjerner”. A suprising, almost post-punk feeling reigns here, with a slightly unsettling, chorus-drenched riff, pulsing bass, quick and purposefully repetitive drumming, and delicately glimmering synthesizers. It’s incredibly hypnotic, and once again speaks well to Vemod‘s ability to work in some less common approaches. It effortlessly slides into a dirty tremolo form, picking up speed and building tension. This is released in the final riff of the album, which emerges with all the liberation of an insect at the end of it’s long and painful metamorphosis. A birth; it feels like an appropriate ending to this first full-length album of Vemod. Though they’ve been active since 2004 with 2 demos and 1 split, this feels like their first real statement of music, and it was absolutely worth the time that went into producing it. I’ve been listening to this actively since it’s release in December of 2012, so don’t take this as the hype of first impressions: It’s too early to say for certain, but Venter på stormene has the air of a classic about it; it’s just not often that you see riffcraft and songwriting this distinctive, atmosphere this carefully crafted, and a vision so proficiently fulfilled. Don’t sleep on this album. -Jake

Terratur Possessions

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~ by jakemoran on September 18, 2013.

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