HØSTSOL – Länge Leve Döden (2023)REVIEW

Though Høstsol formed during cursed plague year zero there is little indication that their work has been an outsized struggle to construct or complete into formation, the collaboration at hand is impeccably achieved, steeled and inspired in its shared miseration. I say this because the line-up here comes from established, well-proven and generally known entities from Scandinavian black metal (and adjacent) circles who haven’t treated their debut full-length ‘Länge Leve Döden’ as a plain or halfway-formed pandemic ‘roused side project. The collective work of these Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish folks manifests as highly professional from every angle without polishing away the unique grisly character black metal requires to stain the mind. Songwriting entirely considered, performances pristine, and arrangements engaging in their dreadful travialles the group endeavors to craft a modern-yet-classicist form of atmospheric black metal which rings with the sickening morbidity of ancient mastery — odes to Death from mind palace(s) depressurized and rotting in solitude.

The most directly identifiable hand in the shaping of ‘Länge Leve Döden’ is that of guitarist Cernunnus whose knack for songcraft centers around droning yet diabolic, folken phrased rhythm guitar work which the dedicated black metal listener will potentially associate with Manes‘ sublimely atmospheric classic ‘Under Ein Bl​ø​draud Maane‘, longtime readers will recall that particular album (and associated early-to-mid 90’s formative work) ranks high among my favorite black metal releases. While Høstsol present a modern level of expression in their craft, an emotionally drifting-forth experience, the inspiration for their debut roots itself in the existential drought of the late 90’s as the sentimental nature of Norwegian pagan black metal carried much of its serious weight in surreal yet tuneful naturalist pieces. Much in the same way a song like “De Mørke Makters Dyp” was atmospheric, slyly melodic and dire in tone so is the majority of ‘Länge Leve Döden’ yet those looking for direct contact with that auld thread are admittedly better served by the lineage provided by Manii‘s two full-lengths from the 2010’s which feature similar utilization of keyboards as well as the presence of vocalist Sargatanas. There is a certain beauteousness to this work which skates past any sense of reprisal of the olden self though there are some shards of grotesque, blaring arrogance in translation of classic rhythmic muscle memory.

This is especially true as we approach “As Seen Through the Eyes of the Prophet”, an impressive yet patient album opener which slowly finds its stride as the momentum of the album set. Beyond the forlorn hum of the guitar work in its draining layers we find an exceptional rhythm section (each current members of Ajattara) solidifying the in-transit groove of the piece. Drumming from Grave PleasuresRainer Tuomikanto is particularly active, wherein the kit is deep set in its own hollowed-out pocket of the mix beyond the considerable cymbal work which crashes all around the perceived space. There is a cold ambiance to all of it, a downward siphoning eerie, which Høstsol holds onto for both transitional moments of continuity as well as a few of the more patient pieces on the full listen. The beast itself would be heartfelt yet overly stewed if not for the pungent severed godhede of Niklas Kvarforth (Shining) who provides voicing in variously determined and shattered moods, balancing the feeling of the record away from nostalgia and toward some greater yearning for the catharsis of the abysm imagined. The greater point to make within all of this musing is that each conspirator appears selected for their attunement to this mood, the journey into miserable gloom and tumultuous attack which Høstsol present in ~8-10 minute stretches.

Though not a direct structural repeat the map which they’d navigate on lead single “Din skördetid är nu kommen” (which also features on the split 12″ single with Shining) in slow and steady reveal initially reads similar to the side-starting introductory moments of “As Seen Through We Eyes of the Prophet”, we find some small precedence for the swaying dread found on most all pieces of ‘Länge Leve Döden’ but as the leads pick up and the sinister organs crawl in the background it is clear the tone of the record has undergone some severe change. In this sense the most extended piece on the album, “Länge leve den ansiktslöse mördaren”, leads us down this path beforehand and makes for arguably the most altogether representative piece on the full listen which leaves “Din skördetid är nu kommen” biting, exaggerative in some sense but not entirely redundant beyond the ‘epic’ before it; While I’d found the whole of the full listen memorable and enchanting upon repeat listens, there is no doubt a point A and a point B achieved in the process and I’d favored the first three pieces of the five available as they’d developed beyond the starting point; As one of the earlier songs to hit “Det Som Eng​å​ng Var (Det Kommer Aldrig Igen)” is an excellent choice for a second single, it’d been the piece to sell me on a closer listen early on thanks to its late 90’s Norwegian minded use of keyboards as backing chorale for peaking verses and rambling riffcraft.

The right ratio of menace and beauty in restless balance becomes the general knack, or, best achieved feat in consideration for Høstsol‘s debut and what signature is available to it. There is a sensation of penance and frustration deeper embedded in the vocal performances and dark ambient sections throughout but what’d impressed most throughout my time with ‘Länge Leve Döden’ was that it’d immediately felt like a well lived-in headspace, a cracked open skull smoking free its torment and ails in well-developed voice. Though I’d hate to suggest that the best parts of this album came when they’d stepped away from the raw triangulation of classicist black metal rhythms, these tended to be the most memorable turns taken. I will concede that the aggressive, violent aspects of this record are absolutely necessary for my own taste, at least of the point is to avoid it all reading as a nihilistic lullaby otherwise. If my thoughts appear scattered and wandering in contemplation I suppose that is the correct side-effect of having sat with this death-devotional album numerous times, its slow-walking reverence remains draped heavily upon me. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Länge Leve Döden
LABEL(S):Avantgarde Music,
The Sinister Initiative
RELEASE DATE:January 13th, 2023

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