Hailing from the land of the midnight sun, or more precisely Kópavogur in Iceland, Svartidauði certainly belong to the dwindling amount of bands in the Black Metal genre whose all-over aesthetics are destructive, obscure and, crucially and most of all, actually believable. After obnubilating the Black Metal scene of the North with their first full-length record ‘Flesh Cathedral’ in 2012 and furthermore releasing three EPs and a live album between 2014 and 2017, it is now time for another aural feast of radical catharsis and sinister enlightenment, ‘Revelations of the Red Sword’, released through the iconic German underground label Ván Records.
Sol Ascending, the first track of the album, takes off with a bright sound, paying homage to the name of the title; gradually, it moves into darker realms, without compromising on the brightly shining guitars surfacing again and again like piercing sun rays in the background. Characteristically powerful vocals, and technically refined instrumental brutality are skilfully blended: All instruments and the haunting screams symbiotically ride on rhythmic waves, creating a coherent whole whose all-consuming fire only burns brighter with every note. A melodic solo part and slowly expiring melodies fade out only to heighten the ambush of the next track Burning Worlds of Excrement.
Fire is a leitmotif of this record, just as much as the powers of the earth made ‘Flesh Cathedral’ sprout from the void. This second track explodes with even more unfiltered aggression, creating a wall of seemingly chaotic and unsettling sound in which, however, nothing is coincidental: The piercing and dissonant guitar sound mingles with booming drum hits, and the vocals both fan and get consumed by the flames they create. The Howling Cynocephali begins with fast and obscure guitar riffing with higher notes steadily re-surfacing in polyphony. Mirroring the mythical dog-head creature that lends this track its name, the music thrashes forward like a hunt, and, as we get carried way into sinister realms, it is impossible to decide whether we are the hunters or the hunted. It is easy to lose itself in this creation, feeling that the soul-wrenching and howling screams piercing the flesh could have been uttered by oneself in infectious agony and rage.
Wolves of a Red Sun makes a mysterious start of the B-side, sending blazing and memorable riffs into the aether. The listener is pulled into a more contemplative mood; we are being prepared for a traumatic re-birth of sound out of a dark vacuum: Svartidauði manage to successfully forge forthright speed and brutality as well as bleakly melodic storytelling into a keen blade of sound digging deeply and cleanly into our flesh, only to abruptly stop the musical phlebotomy with sudden silence, concluding what seems like some extremely short five and a half minutes.
Next up is Reveries of Conflagration, with nearly ten minutes the second-longest tune of the record; driving and diverse drum rhythms as well as gradually climactic melodic guitars explode into a raging yet moony fire of sound, sporting defined and perpetually waxing riffing. It is easy to lose oneself in this tune, as a vast and meditative soundscape is created. Towards the last third, we seem to reach a clearing in the burning forest, with slowed-down instruments consuming the last of the remaining oxygen until the flames soar higher once more, in final and both rhythmically and melodically flickering intensity. Melancholic and mournful spirits are summoned by the next and last track’s slow guitar arpeggios and slowly pull us into a confronting and lightless void, making us wait for the light, albeit the light reflected of vain gold coins that are evoked in the title Aureum Lux.
Hope-crushing ire as well as the ritualistic overturning and resourceful re-evaluation of what has been built up in the previous half hour magically makes the nearly twelve minutes pass as if time had been obliterated. The last minutes dissolve into crushing yet translucent doom, fading into nothingness like a blown out candle’s smoke.
‘Revelations of the Red Sword’ shall be released from the Orcus on December 3rd, in the perpetual dark of the Icelandic winter night. Fans of surreal soundscapes, frantic aural intoxication and philosophical demolition of the world we arrogate to understand should doubtlessly give Svartidauði’s new record a listen. Prepare yourself to be cleansed by fire, just as the aurora sweeps sinister Northern skies.