Whether its essence is imagined as the self-administered poison of choice for Germanic tribes unwilling to submit to Caesar’s usurpation of Gaul, seen as traditional adornment among Catholic churchyards, or cast as a representation of Yggdrasil itself the yew has persisted as a symbol in the minds of western spirituality despite its venomous nature. What’d drive men to make sacred a tree of death’s fruit? Like the tree, men are enduring because (not in spite) of the poison inherent to their existence. Like the yew, men incessantly bear fruit for the sake of the Sun and the passage of time, this despite their noxious effect upon the limits of environs. The yew fits into its surroundings, though– It demands its space in the world where it’d thrive, or be strewn. As death-worshiping, spirit-voided children in service of Ragnarök the fruits of men are exactly as poisonous as could be expected; For all of the climes they’d survive none offer a true home to the esoteric and disfigured faces of modern man. Southwestern Swedish black/folk metal duo Bhleg offer a deeper wrinkle in the forehead with their latest EP ‘Äril’, a channel to be filled with a cosmic stream of ancestral Swedish spirituality as their gaze turns away from the life-giving rays of their first true opus, ‘Solarmegin’ (2018), and now towards the fruiting bodies of autumnal decay as the yew dry up and our eternal night creeps forward.
My own introduction to Bhleg came about recently with their split 7″ alongside Nechochwen. “Sorlande Sky” didn’t necessarily suggest the extent of the duos early Ulver influenced sound and the nepotism I’d assigned to their split-mates would end up lending away the major focus of that intro. ‘Äril’ is much more melodically forthcoming as an experience though its style and tone is not a far cry from ‘Solarmegin’ last year. The bones of Bhleg‘s output isn’t a drastic departure from the black metal/depressive rock of a prior project named Ljuset but the implementation and spiritual focus of this project is entirely different. A good analogue for their sound might be a group like October Falls while any other comparison would likely come directly from their same record label, such as Skogen, or perhaps Grift before he’d moved towards a post-black metal sound entirely. Use of the auld Swedish takes on the lyre and hurdy-gurdy throughout this EP quickly become major highlights on each of these songs as they’ve been incorporated to great effect. With consideration of the mood created and the message received, am I feeling mournful or proud? Ascendant or dysthymic? All at once, I suppose.
There is some sense of cinematic wonder attached to the gluey synths highlighting the verses of “Vittra och dö”, a song that immediately leans into its dark resonance and finds a pace worthy of contemplative post-blackened folk metal. It is the greater prevalence of vocal harmonies and chorales that begin to represent my favorite parts of Bhleg‘s vision now that I’ve gone back and familiarized myself with their discography; In this sense I enjoy ‘Äril’ just slightly more than any prior releases because it’d leaned into the things I’d appreciated about “Sorlande Sky” earlier this year. Each song bleeds into the next and it’d seem that ‘Äril’ was intentionally ordered to group and pair each of the three performances in meaningful succession. For most listeners I think “Vittra och dö” will hold the thunder of the listening experience with its immediately gratifying melodic movements and captivating 14+ minute length– Though the other two pieces are no less compelling they are somewhat more laid back as an introduction. That’d be the best place to start when previewing this latest Bhleg release, which I’d give moderately high recommendation of.
With oars against the current. 3.5/5.0
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