The opening notes of Skogen's newest offering album "Skuggorna Kallar" sets the tone adequately for what's to follow, black metal infused with Scandinavian folk influences, the album gives off a similar vibe to "Vortex era" Borknagar in more ways than one.
The album is consistent in its approach and I can't help but feel that this is the major downfall of the album, the majority of the songs have a similar feel, despite the injection of different folk elements like acoustic guitars, synths, and whatever string instrument plays at the end of the first track!?
The songs are well planned with each instrument being paid attention to and given its own moment to shine from moody synth pieces to bass guitar breaks. The album is accomplished in its execution but struggles to find a voice that can separate it from bands like the aforementioned Borknagar and other folk/black acts like Enslaved, Primordial, and early Drudkh.
The major hurdle of "Skuggorna Kallar" is that for all of its attention paid and obviously talented musicianship that it doesn't make me want to listen to this album, it makes me want to listen to Borknagar particularly the "Archaic Course" and "Quintessence" albums that feature ICS Vortex. Which is a shame because I feel that Skogen are very close to nailing their chosen brand of black/folk but just aren't there yet. Within this style of music that has a focus on being strongly melodic, there should be hooks and catchy riffs in tandem with the vocals, that grab the listener and make them hum all day long.
"Skuggorna Kallar" tracklist:
- Det Nordiska Mörkret
- När Solen Bleknar Bort
- The Suns Blood
- Beneath the Trees
- The Funeral
The production is another slight gripe, it's well mixed (everything is audible and has its place) and each instrument is balanced but it lacks a certain punch, the guitars could be thicker and the vocals could be treated better, as they currently sound a bit dry and lifeless in the mix, which is a shame as Mathias or Joakim (whoever does the clean vocals) has a good set of lungs but the production feels as though it sells him short (I can't help but feel an influence from Vortex in the vocals as well, which is fair as he has one of the best voices in BM imo). It doesn't sound bad but it doesn't have a full-bodied gloss that suits this kind of music, which, bands like the ones I've mentioned above have got down to a tee.
All in all isn't a bad release it just does little to pull away from the crowd and the bands that have dominated this niche now for years. I can only hope that as they grow in confidence they will develop and let their ability shine through, there is something great waiting, it's just not here quite yet.
"Skuggorna Kallar" is due for release on May 25 via Nordvis Produktion.
Reviewed by Dan