Runemagick – Evoked From Abysmal Sleep (2018) REVIEW

The long history of Runemagick goes back almost a full thirty years to roughly 1990 when the suburbs of Göteborg and Stockholm were mid-explosion as tourist destinations for Scandinavia’s most dedicated underground metal minions. One of those quickly rising talents was the endlessly prolific and multi-talented Nicklas Rudolfsson who would work with Robert Pehrsson (Death Breath) on early demos for Masticate and Runemagick. This lead to black/thrash side-project Deathwitch as well as Rudolfsson‘s gig in melodic black metal legends Sacramentum. By 1998 he’d explored a range of sounds and styles on Runemagick demos and would recruit members of Deathwitch and Dissection for ‘The Supreme Force of Eternity’ a blackened death metal album as capable of swinging Bolt Thrower riffs as it was melodic death metal. It is a brilliant underrated achievement that I stumbled upon not long after discovering ‘Far Away From the Sun’. But that wasn’t the ‘real’ Runemagick that’d materialize after their three album run with Century Media was up.

Not to pull any adoration away from Runemagick‘s first three albums, by all means they are incredible works that began a long relationship with Andy LaRocque (King Diamond) and Los Angered Studios, but ‘Requiem For the Apocalypse’ (2002) marked a fully staffed and quickly divergent direction for the band. The project changed drastically towards death/doom metal as they welcomed drummer Daniel Moilanen and bassist Emma Karlsson, both from black/thrash band Dracena, to the fold. Consider this a very brief but powerful Mark III of the band culminating in their sixth album ‘Moon of the Chaos Eclipse’ (2002) before Fredrik Johnsson would exit. If you’re curious if Bolt Thrower and Electric Wizard style stoner doom could possibly mix that was the album from their discography to jump in on. For the next five years the project would release six more full-lengths driven by a spirit of righteously stoned affect in creation of deathly surrealistic doom.

A unique style formed with regular rehearsal and recording habits and in the break between 2007 and 2013 Heavydeath was conceived between Rudolfsson, a bandmate from Necrocurse, and Runemagick drummer Moilanen. The same prolific work ethic and regular rehearsals paid off in developing a wildly distinct dark death and doom sound for Heavydeath across three albums which I’d seen as spiritual successor to Runemagick. With nearly all of the band’s discography being remastered and cleaned up for Bandcamp release in 2015 and beyond, there was at least some sneaking suspicion that they’d reform. When it was announced alongside a new album coming barely a year later I felt some considerable shock that few folks remembered who Runemagick were. An early sign that I’m becoming an old fool, for certain.

The first thing to be sure of was “Is it just a Heavydeath record?” and no actually this return after 11 years does find Runemagick using some of the discordant ringing tones, jagged rhythms and production value of their other project but with far less emphasis on psychedelic doom and more of a slow-rolling death metal pace. Think of something along the lines of ‘Requiem of the Apocalypse’ and ‘Resurrection in Blood’ and less of the stoner/doom crawl the band explored in the mid 2000’s. Slow to mid-tempo riffs and Rudolfsson‘s distinct growls drive the experience back and forth as they reverberate in the muck of this slightly modernized vision that doesn’t necessarily pick up precisely where they left off a decade later. No listener should go into ‘Evoked From Abysmal Sleep’ expecting a return to 2007 but at the very least you’ll recognize the band you’re listening to as Runemagick.

The stream of consciousness directed by Rudolfsson on this record has been it’s own style for well over a decade now and if you’d skipped out on, or just haven’t heard it’s formation across 11 Runemagick albums and 3 Heavydeath full-lengths just know that if you like ‘Evoked From Abysmal Sleep’ the provenance is equally interesting and readily accessible. In the here and now I find the experience of this new Runemagick unsurprising because of my close familiarity with their body of work. As a full listen it is a fitting stretch of riffs aimed at a revival of a band long dead, yet meets expectations for a ‘modern’ rather than surpassing them. Rather than getting an iteration of a death/doom sound set to a Dream Death-meets-Electric Wizard style instead I’d say ‘Evoked From Abysmal Sleep’ resembles bands like Hooded Menace, Druid Lord, and perhaps Drowned… but any sort of direct comparison would feel disingenuous because the style here is so personally developed and differently structured. No other band in extreme doom metal sounds exactly like this.

This one didn’t shock my shit loose or make me want to headbang so much as it mystified me with an evolved version of the trance-inducing death music this trio have been baking up since the early 2000’s. It is neither a revolutionary release nor a rote genre entry but rather a strong and meditative return for one of my personal favorite projects. If you’re either too young or never had any great reason to know who Runemagick are, ‘Evoked from Abysmal Sleep’ will be a strong presence to explore if your taste at least minimally ranges from doom metal towards old school death metal and the spacers that would connect the two.


Artist Runemagick
Type Album
Released July 20, 2018
LISTEN on Runemagick’s Bandcamp!

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Death Doom Metal

It calls for my soul. 4.25/5.0

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