Throughout life, or whatever version of it I have been living, it has always been events of great uncontrollable happiness that’d take me outside of myself, released from the skin and hurtling through the woods nearby. For a time, a frightening ghost would chase me for days, months, or whatever prerequisite hours after it’d take for the fates to tug back the frown onto my face, batter down my shoulders and crumble away the relief reflected within my eyes. Grown in a quiet place full of trees, piteous sorrow, and quietly held hatred it would be tragedy that’d allow home to be a distant and forgotten place. A land, a valley, a nearby mountain, anything but the wooded suburb decaying amidst its too-steep hills since the mid-70’s when it was built. It is a cedar-scented coffin to return to, “home”, a sentimental illusion held in repulsive stasis for the sake of the inconsolable neediness for identity. Only greater sorrow and abject misery, for the future and whatever past left behind, can escape the too-well established ‘self’ with any permanence. And where is freedom, then? Death or, for the sake of others, the cultivation of some nourished gift is the answer. For naturalist and black/folk metal artist Erik Gärdefors Grift is that enriched self aglow with Kierkegaard‘s angst, illuminated and freed by the restlessness of existentialist thought amidst the thawing memory of a cruel seasons past, that is today contemplating the sour imbalance lain upon the Earth. And yet his third album, ‘Budet’, does not brazenly thrive in solitude and distance, no longer escaping to the hills but instead Grift rolls on the tongue the bitterness and the beauteous sweet of life with purpose, divining meaning from uncertain sensations.
The great, seemingly magickal capabilities of men dedicated to a craft is today relegated to those who would sustain lessons of all heritage, history, invention and most often inconveniently remembered tradition. Not because they are regressive or plainly stubborn but for the insight that a greater challenge brings to art, material things, and function in foully dull societies. This’d been my first impression of Gärdefors work when approaching the full discography of Grift whilst reviewing the ‘Vilsna Andars Boning‘ EP, a gorgeously realized duo of dark folk pieces, when it was released in 2018. To learn traditional or folk instruments, stretch away from the atmospheric black metal that’d been explored prior and come out on the other side with such a success unveiled the musicians capability for laboring towards the exact ‘right’ result, a determined vision rather than coy experimentation to my ears, at least. Without understating the impressive sense of grace and emotion crystallized within ‘Syner‘ (2015) and ‘Arvet‘ (2017) each new vision from Grift arrives with more clarity, sometimes a different purpose or method yet the greater ‘being’ of the music survives with its heart in tact. ‘Budet’ is an intensification upon all ears, a rise to complete integration of dark folk elements and instrumentation into Gärdefors sight with field recordings and swimming, grand melodies trailing along a seeming eternity highlighting each of its six extended pieces.
It would be awkwardly insincere to attempt to separate the folk from the black metal as I’d originally intended to do in description of ‘Budet’, not only because they are intertwined beautifully but because it’d inevitably miss the message put forth. I do not believe an artist becomes more ambitious and expands their oeuvre with any flippancy, at least not an artist as typically serious as Grift. Point being that he has not simply pasted the successes of ‘Vilsna Andars Boning’ (and Undantagsfolk) on top of old rhythms from past albums; Both elemental pieces not only connect in circuitous ways but each takes their turn as the focal point within detailed compositions and strings of memorable melodic device. The reed organ paired with a pronounced creaking the introduces “Barn av ingenmansland” and bears the exodus of “Ödets bortbytingar” is a brilliant thread that cuts through the center of the album, dignifying the mood of each song while carrying melodic and sensorial themes throughout by way of violin, acoustic guitar and many impressive lead guitar driven melodies. The howling vocals, the driving rhythms, and the greater ache of Grift is still intact but they do not come with any plain pile of dread. All of the intended detail accumulates into a vibe that communicates a horrified glimpse of the future as much as it expresses a great adventurous wonder, a surviving bewilderment for the greatness of the land.
Although the auto-translation options available leave something to be desired, there is the sense that the lyrics on ‘Budet’ are thick with personal meaning, referring to environmental strife and solitary living through poetry inspired by an array of Swedish poets. One only needs delve one or two names deep into his list of influences to understand the lasting tone of pessimistic Swedish philosophy in Grift‘s lyrics, from Lagerkvist‘s youthful anguish to Edfelt‘s turn from dark reality toward introspection. Rich and emotive imagery go a long way towards providing an understandable shift in tense where dwelling upon the future becomes inevitable — Self-examination turns toward consequence, toward an even more profound darkness shared by all. ‘Budet’ is joyous and somber at once, entranced by craft and driven by the discomfort of living as a communal species; It is not such a ‘hurts so good’ feeling but an unsure release where one runs out into a sun-drenched field beaming at the sight but, avoids twirling in circles and flopping in the grass for the sake of not being reminded of the tether and its chain around their neck. “Barn av ingenmansland” and its first ringing hits of the electric guitar arrive with a feathery, airborne quality yet the strain in Gärdefors voice tells another story befitting a song referring to new life born into desolation. This sentiment is the exact right way to introduce ‘Budet’ as an album made strong by its balance of beauty, sorrow, and a tease of hope for the doomed.
“Skimmertid” follows with far more dreary folk application than anything found on the EP prior, a dejected mirror upon a world saturated by darkness. By contrast “Ödets bortbytingar” follows as one of the more ‘straightforward’ black metal songs on the album in terms of guitar work, resting upon the style of atmospheric black metal Grift is generally known for. ‘Budet’ feels like less of a total sea change because of tracks like this and yet the album feels slightly more typical because of those familiar patterns. When considering the full listen it is a vital point of energy nonetheless as the ten minute funereal dirge of “Väckelsebygd” arrives, a song which I suspect will vary in its effect upon the typical fan. I saw it has an ominous ambient expression of inner horror, a brilliant extension of folkish instrumental ideas that drive Grift into newly broadening vision but I would not blame the irreverent listener for finding it a bit dry on repeated listens. I’d been captivated and writhing at this point in the album, some parts eerie genius and others fairly typical. All serves a contemplative tone, a thoughtful analysis in the midst of emotional flurries that are painful and joyous depending on the moment. I greatly value music that’d not plainly ask me to think but instead bear the fruits of their own devices, obsessions, and make obvious the craft resultant of the mind loosened and pouring. If I cannot help but envision the increasingly bleak worldview of the artist, the droop of thier lids in response to a graying world, then ‘Budet’ is an success that comes on its own terms. A moderately high recommendation, slightly higher for the folk/black metal inclined.
Moderately high recommendation. 3.75/5.0
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