SEID – Svartr Sól (2022)REVIEW

Glenr’s god-blithe Bed-Mate wadeth / Into the Goddess’s mansion / With rays; then the good light cometh / Of gray-sarked Máni downward.Skáldskaparmál

With eyes undeterred from the beauteous destroyer above the awe of the esoteric spiritualist increasingly affixes upon the adage that what entity once gave life forever reserves the right to take it away, less a circular event dependent upon time and instead an eventuality sourced from within the same radiant force. By way of six hymnal Norse paganistic black metal pieces in tribute to Sól Swedish black metal trio Seid find their strongest resolve to date, embracing newfound echoing resonance the size of celestial body as key momentum behind tightened, primally impactful works beyond expectation. ‘Svartr Sól’ may be one in a line of several leaps of insight stirred between releases for the artist yet it is inarguably the most dramatic landing to date.

Formed in Stockholm circa 2009 as one of the earliest public projects from then solo musician Seiðr (Serpent Omega, Dark Prod Studios), the theme and stylistic intent of Seid has remained largely steadfast as Scandinavian pagan black metal erring towards the epic/melodic spectrum of expression rather than the soil-bound folken variety. The major constant collaboration within the project over the years since formation has been Alabama-based drummer Bryan Arant (Passion of Death, Serrated) whom first featured on Seiðr‘s seven year in the making first record (‘The Woods‘, 2016) as one of three session drummers. Beyond that core duo original bassist Alex Purkis (Kall, Craft) featured on the second (‘Darkness Shall Fall‘, 2017) and third (‘Ulv‘, 2019) records from the band ’til current bassist Osgilliath was pulled into the band from the live line-up more recently. Though a run through their personnel up front might seem a bit dry on my part it speaks to the journey and the work put in over the last decade in reveal of the soul of Seid, which arguably began to find its most capable unveil in the more melodic sections of ‘Darkness Shall Fall‘ which fans of Swedish melodic black metal in the mid-to-late 90’s should appreciate on a basic level but folks familiar with Helheim‘s ‘Av norrøn ætt‘, Kampfar‘s ‘Mellom Skogkledde Aaser‘ and perhaps the debut from Twin Obscenity will be engaged best herein.

With ‘Ulv‘ it’d seem Seid had aimed for the next level of presence on record and in the flesh, putting together a touring band and generally upping the quality of their art direction and themes further emphasizing the Norse/vikingr mythos that’d been a strong point of personality on ‘Darkness Shall Fall‘. For my own taste the production values on each of those first three albums weren’t so much raw as they were somewhat loud and grating in terms of the mix on the drums versus the other levels, of course buying a digital copy off of a streaming site doesn’t ever compare to a vinyl purchase in this regard but the first note I’d taken in the good graces of ‘Svartr Sól‘ was that they’d found a more reverb-shaken, ice cavernous sound for this fourth record and this includes much improved drum capture. This goes a long way towards providing a necessary sense of space and unreal presence to Seid‘s increasingly evocative and elaborately sculpted austere pieces, all of which are dedicated Sól.

This perceived atmospheric expansion likewise allows the Quorthonian influence in Seiðr‘s songwriting more direct foil to develop within these six ~5-7 minute black metal songs, bigger melodic ideas delivered with admirable impact and substantive feeling without 10+ minutes per instance in tow, which many similarly atmospheric acts indulge via heavy use of repetition. The first two opening pieces are crucial showcase for how ‘Svartr Sól‘ arrives with a fresh sense of decisiveness, or, a relaxed yet commanding feeling in hand as the breaking waves of “Call of Ægir” makes its grand entrance into its thrilling storm-and-call, eventually finding particularly fine clean vocal chorale and roar in the intense last third of the song; From there the title track continues out at sea slowly building to its mid-paced center and, again, the larger effect of the song is a build into increasingly grand statements. Though the slow-waltzed ladder of the rhythm guitar progression is ultimately the major development of the song in those first five or so minutes they eventually land upon a simple ascending melody which’d been crucial for catching my ear on initial listens.

Seid paint with increasingly grand strokes from that point on, working deeper within the eye of the storm more often after those opening moments set such an incredible tone, key for the success of the full listen worming into ear. The echoing furor of “The Great Flames Rises” is the steady cacophony at the heart of the full listen for my own taste, again rooting its rhythmic statement within streams of austere melody yet still pulling up for air in regular intervals to match the hall-filling rasp of the vocal narrative. “Windows Everywhere” is the finest piece on the album from my perspective and the ascension that the three prior pieces seemed to be developing. The artful composition for two guitars interacts in such a masterful way here as a long-arching melody develops striking me with some nostalgia for the early sounds of bands like Throne of Ahaz or Algaion, though this example is far more gracefully set and complex there is a mid-90’s melodic black metal edge to the piece which fully reveals around ~3:29 minutes in. Though this has precedence in pagan black metal since I’ve gotten the sense that this album comes with some extra fealty for the old ways in terms of its sound design and emphasis on potent, intentioned pieces of somewhat meticulous design.

As Seid slowly tread on into their darkest wilderness via an impressive eight minute finale I’d found myself appreciating this fairly succinct ~35 minute spin as much larger than that’d imply, free of stumbling ideas or half-formed portion. As a result ‘Svartr Sól‘ has stuck with me far more than ‘Ulv‘, suggesting the three year span between releases has manifested some considerable insight into their craft. That they’ve been able to do so without losing the thread tugged at since 2016 is admirable, especially with reflection upon past releases revealing some manner of ambitious work done within each interim before. I’ve found the full listen inspiring during a time where a lot of wintry black metal releases have refused to sink in, or threatened to iterate too plainly upon whatever current status quo dominates. So, my recommendation admittedly comes down to personal taste and the lasting thrill of the full listen thus far moreso than any truly objective meter this time around. It feels empowering, wisened and fueled by the sort of idea that cannot escape the mind beyond this very path and that’d felt particularly special these last several weeks with ‘Svartr Sól‘. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Svartr Sól
LABEL(S):Urtod Records
RELEASE DATE:February 2nd, 2022

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