Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Skogen - Eld

There are three active black metal bands named Skogen. The Swedish one released an album last month with the same name as a well-known Enslaved record. This was the band's third album since their formation in 2009.

As my opening might indicate, I feel like there's a little bit of a void in the originality department when it comes to this release. It essentially offers the same Viking-inflected brand of black metal that Enslaved themselves were producing at the time of the better-known Eld. Now that's not to say this is bad. It's a perfectly solid record, and I actually rather enjoyed it. But it just felt a bit like I was listening to Enslaved Lite.

The record moves at a slow-to-middling pace, with only one track under six minutes long, and the total run time clocking in at just shy of an hour. The guitar work is relatively standard black metal fare, just played at a slower tempo. The bass is surprisingly audible and even actively productive in several places, which is probably the most unusual factor in the band's sound. The drummer does a good job of flowing with the rest of the band, though the drum work is not really a central factor in most of the music. The vocal work goes between traditional black metal shrieks and sonorous clean passages that walk the line between chants and spoken-word recitations. The latter variety, along with some scattered acoustic interludes, provide the bulk of Viking-esque flavor.

There's really nothing specifically wrong with this album. I can't point to any one thing and say "if they only fixed this, the record would sound good," because the record already does sound good. Unfortunately, when you choose to tread in the footsteps of a great band that is still active (even if their newest effort was a bit of a dud) then you have to bring something to the table or your material just sounds like a skillful rehash. In the end, that's pretty much what this feels like.

Grade: B-
Solid black metal with some Viking flavor to it, but if you've already got the classic Enslaved albums you won't find anything new here. Still, it makes for an enjoyable listen.

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