DJEVEL – Tanker Som Rir Natten (2021)REVIEW

The witless man / is awake all night, / Thinking of many things; / Care-worn he is / when the morning comes, / And his woe is just as it was.Hávamál

This seventh album and third evolutionary configuration of Oslo-based trio Djevel is yet a classic Norwegian black metal release in spiritus, wherein every breath is in service to a strictly regional craft developed in distinctly Norsk uterus. With that said, this configuration of lament now stretches one arm from the auld capitol, Trondheim, for the sake of deepening poetic value and freshly head-swimming expressionistic movement. The atmospheric climes entertained within this collection of thoughts that ride the night speaks directly to the celestial dark, mythic in tone as ‘Tanker Som Rir Natten‘ patiently weaves its night-spirited revelations via longform pieces that immerse and enchant above all else.

The history of Djevel is uncomplicated though it does feature a fair number of line-up changes spanning the band’s twelve year history, all of it lead by musician Trond Ciekals (NettleCarrier, ex-Ljå) since 2009. Two factors (vocalist swaps, drummer changes) have altered this course but, not dramatically. Perhaps most notably, around 2017 original Kvelertak vocalist Erlend Hjelvik and infamous drummer Dirge Rep (The Konsortium, ex-Gehenna) had both moved on, making way for Faust (Blood Tsunami, ex-Emperor) and then bassist Mannevond (Koldbrann, ex-Urgehal) to step in and impress. From ‘Blood Ritualer’ (2016) onwards the project has taken an increasingly sophisticated approach to each album, ensuring that they’ve landed with some importance and a stronger sense of ‘self’ felt within Ciekals‘ songcraft. But today you won’t find me blathering on about all of that since I’ve written extensive reviews for each of the two albums beyond that point: ‘Blant Svarte Graner‘ (2018) provides a brilliant evocation of post-plague devastation and disarray across Norway where I’d suggested Ciekals had found himself “stepping up as a world class artist at the helm for songwriting, lyrics, and guitar work” and ‘Ormer Til Armer, Maane Til Hod‘ (2019) had leaned into its ambition with longer-form pieces while amplifying the classic second wave assault of their sound, developing the natural precursory poetic voice that shines on ‘Tanker Som Rir Natten’.

The key statement to lead with here is that although Djevel have always been highly professional they have continued to improve (or, refine) in leaps as these last four releases have appeared. Ushering in a new fellow, vocalist/bassist Kvitrim (Mare, ex-Kaosritual), sets the wealth of his own black magick into the fold and provides a notable stirring. Though we are comfortably beset within Ciekals‘ prosaic sentence length song-titles, sharply drawn guitar work, and choice of naturalistic and mood-driven album art it is imperative to note that there has been a compelling paradigm shift here that could only be described as a “deepening” of traits. A strong implication of rawness resonates as the opening strum of one guitar layer rings into the opening statement, and first single, “Englene Som Falt Ned I Min Seng, Skal Jeg Sette Fri Med Brukne Vinger Og Torneglorier” developing a sense of scene via multi-layered guitar tones that represents foreground, background, and melodic voice which picks up the reigns of the haunt around the ~5:22 minute mark soon rolling into more confrontational variations, expertly weaving in ethereal keyboards echoing this beauteous introductory melody. Here we can note several changes to Djevel‘s sound that are subtle to start, such as the newly present and expressive basslines, the emphasis on dark melody knit within each piece, and songs that now seem to naturally aim closer to 9-10 minutes on average. The lungs that drive these bodies are now pushing more than ever, making sure they’ve used their time well without clustering bursts of ideas, such as on ‘Blood Ritualer’. The second track, and second single, from the album “Maanen skal være mine øine, den skinnende stierne mine ben, og her skal jeg vandre til evig tid” does not reprise the structure of the first piece beyond what I would describe as the ‘late second act reveal’ of the core melodic statement, a very late 90’s Aeternus-esque sense of movement. Here we find Ciekal‘s clean, monastic vocal arrangements evolving into cathedral sized harmonization implying the broader shapes of the core melody and then acting as additional fanfare once it is revealed nearing the six minute point. Also of note is the use of acoustic guitar arrangements to space these modes, something previously common within Djevel‘s wheelhouse which they’ve brought back into a few of these songs to great effect. This moment was crucial as an existing fan for feeling the both the history of the band in mind and the piece’s semblance of classic forms of melodic black metal with their own atmospheric elaboration applied.

Wings, flight, thorns, crowns, mythic waltzes and skies ablaze there appears to be some strong effort set within these lyrics to match the gracefully applied changes to atmospheric values and ease of movement that characterizes the ‘Tanker Som Rir Natten’ experience — A spiritual level of prose that could only come from cold and solemn commune with moonlit nights. Yet I didn’t find myself blissfully rolling around in the grass to this dark aura, as Djevel are still a Norwegian black metal band and the main application here is menace if not necessarily mayhem but, an appreciation for the lurking and fearsome aspect of the night. In some ways lyrical themes and visual cues might find this album easily read as a sort of ode to the era of albums like ‘Panzerfaust‘ but clearly not once the listener is in the thick of things. This haunted aspect of the album clarifies with the acoustic interlude and title track “Tanker Som Rir Natten” a two guitar progression that is variously circled by ghostly wails and creeping noises at the edge of each ear. The final two pieces represent this extra-deepening affect of all suggested traits as the compositions become more elaborate and complexly lain in presentation. “Naar maanen formørker solen i en dødelig dans, ber jeg moder jord opp til en siste vals” is the most dramatic use of acoustic guitar accoutrement as the skeleton of the song is presented with a thrilling rise to fanfare, pushing into form that is more in touch with modern atmospheric black metal austerity than no longer feels so entirely rooted in appreciation of classic Taake, Satyricon and Kvist. Don’t get me wrong, though, these are still the right references as a whole but now with the understanding that Djevel have produced an album that does not have to be viewed as nostalgic in its entirety. “Vinger Som Tok Oss Over En Brennende Himmel, Vinger Som Tok Oss Hjem” rekindles some of the methods of “Maanen skal være mine øine, den skinnende stierne mine ben, og her skal jeg vandre til evig tid” only now applying those baritone choirs to fully shaped statements and clean singing over acoustic guitar work. The piece takes every twist and turn it can to fully represent the album as a whole and ends up being my personal favorite song on the full listen for its ambitious and engaging movements.

Though I could go on in greater detail in reference to the strong balance of traits old and new within, fawn over the impressive movement into more atmospheric territory via longer pieces and praise the breathing room given to these compositions I’m not so sure if this will be of any surprise to existing fandom. The inherent accessibility, via a new high standard of Djevel‘s own craft, is almost easier to recommend as a strong starting point for folks yet uninitiated to their sound. The best traits of past albums are alight herein and I’ve found it to be their easiest record to engage on a regular basis, though I’d wanted more of the rawness implied on the opener. ‘Tanker some rir natten’ is a righteous gateway into Djevel‘s discography and worthy of a high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Tanker som rir natten
LABEL(S):Aftermath Music
RELEASE DATE:May 14th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Djevel Official Website
GENRE(S):Black Metal

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.