LIFVSLEDA – Sepulkral Dedikation (2022)REVIEW

Chirurgia ad praeterita — Heating phobic humours, boiling away the living essence of various dysthymic personified bile ’til blackened and scorched, in various ritualer amidst the open-air tracts of valley-bound wilds in central Sweden the incessantly smoking spawn and thriving curse of Lifvsleda reeks of soured ancient knowledge, a hidden hand which bears the cut of its own bladed sacrificial mark deep across their palm’s print. Arisen for the sake of forgotten ideals, murderous ideas, and the simple art of death worship in mind the entity wills itself back into view for the sake of deafening demand for their sermon, a second tomb to grow moss upon as ‘Sepulkral Dedikation‘ stirs the quivering guts of its faithful in coldly dogmatic claw-fisted event, shunning all. An intensifying morbid reality calls, speaking to death’s fascination and here they’ve answered this memento mori with a work worthy of remembrance.

Appraised as an unified entity fit for public release circa 2019, Lifvsleda‘s line-up is shared between at least two, perhaps three folks whom were involved in the late 80’s death metal surge in Sweden wherein they’d found themselves pivoting to black metal’s serious emergence in the early 90’s. That is to suggest that at the very least one member of Sorhin is involved here and the style of all of their releases is, for all intensive purposes, distinctly Swedish black metal. I would go one step further and suggest this as melodic black metal due to the voicing of the guitar work, elaborate stretches of tremolo-driven statements which almost always resolve in concentric patternation despite any lingering droning affect, yet I’d still feel compelled to stress that this is not a ‘retro’ revival or recreation of a previous project, nor does their music bear any too-direct semblances of note as you’ll recall from their debut demo (‘Manifest MMXIX‘, 2019) wherein classicism was not at all in short supply yet without any cloyingly nostalgic trait. Though some slight mutterings of dissonance and harsher atmospherics defined that initial tape the project would streamline these notions into a steadied, more focused full-length debut (‘Det Besegrade Lifvet‘, 2020) which I’d enjoyed but felt the attack of the performances (and the album art) weren’t up to the old standard when I’d given short review of it. It’d been generally well-received nonetheless and yet holds its own sort of frozen lustre in casual listen.

The major goal of the folks involved is an album which speaks for itself, hence the general silence the project has granted the public beyond an interview or two, wherein the listener attuned to the puritanical black metal ideal intended should be able to set the album on their turntable and confidently recognize the real thing when they hear it. The only addendum to this thought that the “past is alive” worth interjecting is that there is a wisened, more capable set of actors involved in this ideation today and this finds the melodious gusting of key 7″ single (‘Lifvspänn‘, 2022) comes from matured ears, hands, and those whom may hold the past in highest esteem but, without becoming deaf to the highest standards of today. They’ve needled their place in the brain with this piece, insisting upon a memorable introduction dramatic enough to captivate while neither letting loose of their whole hand of cards nor feigning naïveté. That is to say that the single is of course not the full story, nor is it exacting representation of the ripping-hot speed available to ‘Sepulkral Dedikation‘, but that it presents a window into where Lifvsleda have naturally improved most in development of more complete arcs to sustain the inspire of their greater melodic presentation. Each of the eight pieces herein contains a similar sense of grandeur, an ancient flair delivered with rotten-lipped harass and cold, never maudlin stoicism which is delivered with jets of inhumane speed which make all the difference for my own taste.

The harsh ‘heavy metal’-minded delirium of classic Swedish black metal is traded for the blustering ‘epic’ expanse of ‘Sepulkral Dedikation‘ which is neither overtly abrasive or particularly dogged in its biting at the listeners heels ’til we turn an ear directly toward Sigward‘s vocal performances, set a few extra feet deep in the mix and in tandem assault with the rhythm guitarist’s most generous assaults his phrases exist entirely in step with each piece without any cockish grandstanding to avert the senses from the atmospheric gulch depicted. The space available to each instrument is neither as suffocating in atmosphere as Grifteskymfning, nor as violent as Triumphator‘s full-length, nor as glowingly rabid as Dödfödd‘s circa 2010 or so output, erring towards similarly traditional rabidity and clustering bravado without breaking the riveting rush of the band itself in action. The strength of the full listen is its generative pool of tone in application of melody and movement between, this being a ‘guitar album’ in essence and one with virtuosic voice which doesn’t attempt to downplay this mastery of rhythmic step. This connection between guitarist and the inspirational physical act of cobbling strings of well-knotted rant is true to such a degree that even after five minutes of arms-spread and howling creed the buoyancy of opener “Sändebudet” cannot satisfyingly resolve, having to interrupt itself to break the spell cast and move on to the next piece. Perhaps this is a matter of finding a proper state of flow in the midst of creation then needling an arrangement to the proper edge but, either way the event is immediately more spirited and engaging than most of ‘Det Besegrade Lifvet‘.

Beyond the elevated insight of “Lifvspänn” the single-worthy pieces aren’t obviate as, again, the level of composition and ear-grabbing mastery is equitant throughout the full listen. The most pure black metal sickness available is perhaps “Djefvulen” in terms of its guitar arrangement yet even this piece has its gjallarhorn-aided refrains, a sort of pagan black touch which lifts us from a point of Svensk-inspired craft to something a bit more in touch with the original thread of Swedish black metal. Trite as such a small ‘Bergtatt‘-esque detail might appear in mention, these moments sum into the glowing, resonant feeling of ‘Sepulkral Dedikation‘ while escaping the necessity of an endless chain of catchy melody and clever guitar wrangling, avoiding something too obviously stated and eh, cockily early 2000’s rawk-black in spirit. Those awaiting the next wave of sustenance in the form of melodic black metal genius will find “Hädankallad” as perhaps the major highlight of the full listen, its boisterous reveal threatening to overshadow the vocals. Side A is inarguably the strongest introduction to Lifvsleda available, the deep breathing of learned mastery that’d been missing on previous releases.

Side B further explores the wilds birthed by the ancient breath of its predecessor, recognizing the humming din of its atmospheric values and whirling them into frenzied depth of consternation on “Likbälet” with intensified folken hand, slicing into its tremolo-railed melodic center point roughly three minutes in. Here we find the ‘old school’ taste level in vaguest strokes considering the full listen, the tunneled vision of ~forty minute record uninterrupted by the modernist’s need for duality and instead ceaselessly attacking the possibilities rather than figuring them in self-conscious unravel as they write song after song. We strike upon another undeniable highlight with my personal favorite piece of the lot in “Dödspredikanten”, terrible as the thought might be to some I’d found an indirect sort of ‘…en their medh riki fara…‘-esque bout of folkish determination in its greater crawl, the sort of progression which could rightfully blaze for an hour for all I care and I’d still be hanging on its thread. While your own associations are likely different the release is, again, on a inspired ‘roll’ until the very end and I’ll cut my spurging deposition here in suggestion that this record only becomes more redeeming with each track and finds its end right at the point of enough, but not enough.

Lifvsleda have cut into the old ways, rescinding some ancient follies and modulating their own musical voice in selectively culling the spiritual essence of black metal from well-dead organs, gathering the grand argument that is ‘Sepulkral Dedikation‘ as a statement of mastery rather than blind venturing into the future. There is never a hint of their figuring the path forward but rather a decisive set of striking blows, artful in whips of glinting knife after knife whittling a beauteous and raw three-dimensional ideal. Well, it is the right blend of atmosphere, attack, melodicism, and stoicism that the best black metal bears and needless to say they’ve gotten this one right for my own taste. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Sepulkral Dedikation
LABEL(S):Norma Evangelium Diaboli
RELEASE DATE:April 1st, 2022

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