In one of my numerous daily conversations with my writing/business partner and the musical savant Racer X, I made mention that I was kinda’ digging this weird little niche of music that thankfully bears no title. As a description, I stated that it’s like a bunch of ambient black metallers were going through their parents record collections and deciding that they wanted to play 70’s style progressive and psychedelic rock . . . or maybe it’s vice versa. 70’s music lovers playing modern atmospheric black metal just seems like such a stretch, but hey . . . what the hell do I know? I just report what I hear! The last year or so, I’ve had some great experiences re-discovering, or self-discovering music that was originally released in the 70’s and early 80’s, and I’m finding that a lot of modern musicians are also going back to this era of music for inspiration. Year of the Goat, Hypnos 69, Been Obscene, Stone Axe, Opeth, Colour Haze . . . all are but a few of the bands that come to mind that look to the past for guidance towards the future.
So, I was going through my iPod and purging all of the stuff that I never listened to or I felt had no reason to be cluttering up my precious bits and bytes, and stumbled on a band called Svarti Loghin. I must have received this album as a digital download and it got lost in the pile of other digital submissions (always a major problem with digital submissions . . . out of sight, out of mind). I simply don’t remember ever seeing it come through, but I must have listened to enough of it to decide that I would download it for the future. Well, folks . . . the future is becoming the present and I’m getting to this outstanding album from Svarti Loghin entitled Drifting Through The Void. Part black metal, part shoegazer, a touch of 90’s Seattle rock, and heavily influenced by some of the 70’s sounds, especially in the way of textures, tones, and general coolness. The interesting aspect about this album is that the band is captured embracing the organic and natural ethos of today’s atmospheric black metal in the way of composition, production, and darkened menace. And yet, there’s still something that these guys are doing that I can’t put my finger on . . . and that makes me want to listen to Drifting Through The Void even more . . . just so I can try to figure out what the hell is going on here!
“Red Sun Sets” opens the album with a nice, eerie atmospheric instrumental piece, filled with pianos and softly strummed strings over the soft and subtle sounds of either a mellow wind blowing across a plain or of water washing across a shore of rock. No matter, it’s an intro that will make you feel like you’re in nature, preparing to get pummeled by the screeching vocals of some face painted dude in a robe. Not quite. While the vocals do eventually assail us with a raw bellow, it’s not exactly that demonic and grating sound that I’ve become accustomed to with the black metal genre that I so expected this album to fall under. Surprisingly, “Kosmik Tomhet” has more of a post-grunge, alternative rock vibe than anything black metal . . . so things are looking up in several ways. The first minute plus of the song is some heavily textured guitar rock, big and dense sustained chords with clear arpeggios being plucked over the rhythm, and then the wall of distortion disappears, almost like the morning fog lifting and the rays of the sun creeping through the air. Then the heavy guitars and bass return, performing a rather uplifting melody . . . and then we’re greeted by the vocals that couldn’t be further from black metal. These vocals have a nice mellow timbre to them and they croon out this haunting melody before doing a complete one-eighty and we’re assailed by the demonic and tortured howls that are more reminiscent of the black metal genre. The music is still creeping along at this shoegazer pace, but the bass drums are thundering away at double time and the vocals are raging in apocalyptic torment. This little epic piece of music runs just under eight minutes long, and it’s so easy to get lost in the texture and atmospherics of the tune. Man . . . what an amazing contrast of styles!
The same ideas run through the next track, “Odelagd Framtid”, ranging from shoegazer/ alt-rock in musical texture and sheering the face off with the deathly howls of black metal, and it’s completely mesmerizing! It’s the title track that seemed to strike me as the most intoxicating, however. Vocally, and maybe a little musically, the melody reminds me of Temple of the Dog. It’s an immediately memorable tune in that I can see myself tooling around the office and humming this one. Shadows of Eddie Vedder linger around the vocal performance, that is, until the middle portion when the tune takes a decidedly dark turn through the woods. The vocals return to the haunted howls of a soul striving to be free of its torment and the music is laced with tendrils of creepiness that one might find in the darkest moments of Katatonia’s greatest hits. And then, it all breaks down to the purest organic elements of an acoustic guitar, bending notes in a very Southern swampy blues style akin to Stephen Stills plowing his way through the riffs of “Black Queen”. Throw in a little harmonica and this portion of the song fits well on any dilapidated porch in Louisiana. I love the vision behind this song . . . it could have gone straight down some dark highway, but Svarti Loghin decided to take a side road and found some incredible moments along the journey.
The band outdo themselves with the nine minute majesty of “Bury My Heart In These Starlit Waters”. Hypnotic as the gentle ebbs and flows of the ocean under a full moon, the music rolls across the horizon of the mind, reflecting hopes, dreams, sadness, and fear. Even when the demonic vocals from the oceanic deep bubble to the surface, I don’t feel the terror that I thought I would or should, it all feels so natural and perfectly fitting. In my mind, this song could easily have been the soundscape behind the Kon-Tiki voyage of 1947 . . . sitting on a raft in the middle of the Pacific ocean, letting the current take the craft wherever the current wanted to go . . . some may want to pop some Dramamine prior to listening to this one.
Drifting Through The Void was a something that I unfortunately missed from 2010 or even 2009. I say unfortunately simply because I would have loved to include this in my year end Top 10 list. But alas, I’ll simply have to spout off about how brilliant it is here and now. It’s an album full of some fantastic cosmic adventures in sound, heavily textured and immensely haunting. It may not appeal to all rock fans because of the heavily intense vocal work, but then again, it may open some to those darker elements of black metal that they were afraid to investigate prior. I love this one. The exclamation point came with Svarti Loghin’s interpretation of Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan”. I heard the opening notes and felt like I was being propelled through space in some cryogenic sleep . . . half conscious, watching the stars float past my glass enshrouded capsule. Amazing album . . . check out the darkness, folks!