UNDER THE NEEDLE
EREB ALTOR ‘Ulfven’ 7.5
Ereb Altor’s unashamedly transparent love of Bathory seems to have earnt the Swedes precious little kudos in critical circles since their now-distant inception back in 2003. But while the craggy, intensely visceral presence of their legendary predecessors may be easily discernible in the mix, classic black metal is but one ripping, frostbitten yarn in this finely crafted tapestry of dusky elements and ancient vibrations. And despite labouring under the additional burden of the rather tired and generic ‘Viking metal’ tag, the brutal and stirringly beautiful content within reveals something altogether trickier to pin down. That said, the first few tracks featured here are undeniably heavy with primal, chest-beating grandiosity, with densely muscular lines of riffage whose sinewy throes seamlessly unravel into a dazzling array of savagely beautiful arrangements. Led by the rich and raggedly soulful verses of frontman Crister 'Mats' Olsson, ‘Av Blod Är Jag Kommen’ offers up a tantalising splicing of crushing groove and insanely paced acceleration. But while these initial numbers may suffer from plodding and unremarkable tendencies in places, ‘The Rite of Kraka’s’ explosive combo of battering speed and bone-scraping tremolo makes for a relentlessly dark and arresting slab. With coal-black lashings of reverb and unearthly melodic accents that palpably ooze deathly beauty, this genre-crossing standout is no simple homage to the legends of yesteryear.
Plunging still deeper into these grave-scented atmospherics, title track ‘Ulfven’ sees luscious, Katatonia-esque fretwork and stirring acoustics align with fluid ease and savagely majestic presence. A complex, richly imaginative and oftentimes stunning piece of modern extremity. ‘Ulfven’ is out now on Hammerheart Records For more on Ereb Altor, visit: https://www.facebook.com/ErebAltorOfficial/
ZORNHEYM ‘Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns’ 8
This coldly immersive epic is unsurprisingly steeped in all the ripping, brimstone-scorched aggression and lacerating technical detail you’d associate with former Dark Funeral riffmaster Zorn. But for all the prominence of these instantly recognisable trademarks, this expansive melange of nimbly flourishing strings, eerily grandiose choral blasts and tremolo-laden textures displays a bewildering compositional scope that sets these innovative Swedes firmly apart from their high-profile origins.