The starry shroud of time lifts away from the fantastical mysteries of a well-hidden anciency, a spectre of the fading forest struggles in plain view while we dream of its lushness in dissociation, averting all eyes mid-collapse. A glowing dream-like fantasy of hidden worlds stirs in the hands of Stockholm, Sweden-based black metal act Blodtår who’ve arrived upon the worthy milestone that is their debut full-length realizing a thrilling standard of beauteous yet destructive craft. More than anything else ‘Det förtegna förflutna‘ reveals an earliest era of folklore driven Scandinavian black metal sophistication, a sweetest spot wherein the claws were still sharp on the greater beast but the loft of the music reached poetic heights for the sake of deepening the individual’s connection with the land. Pensive yet stoically stated within rousing melodic pieces this record builds folken dramatism into countless peaks of inspiration throughout, making for a memorable and entirely consistent full listen which stuns with admirably direct efficacy.
A fellow named Carl formed Blodtår back in 2019 for the sake of a gap, a type of folken melodic black metal-adjacent music which was distinctly missing from the greater spheres today per their own specific taste. When the project was revealed with little foreshadowing per the revered Nordvis label their debut mLP (‘Blodtår‘, 2021) was immediately impressive for its scathing guitar tone, Scandinavian folk attuned melodicism and throttled speed. At first I was sure this was perhaps Carl Stjärnlöv (Diabolical) who provides the illustrations for each release from the band, but any likeness was dispelled quickly by band photos. The line-up had included drummer/co-producer H. Alarcón C. (Hær, Mystruin) and their collective efforts appeared to aim for an ideal point of merger between the raw yet expressive edges of debuts from Gorgoroth (‘Pentagram‘) and Azaghal (‘Mustamaa‘) might collide with the balance that early Mithotyn and especially Borknagar might naturally provide in similar mid-to-late 90’s headspace. As one might suspect these ideals might amount to something akin to Panphage but that mLP wasn’t quite as obscure in its voicing, though the main pieces made quite direct melodic statements which’d define the release beyond its blazing speed and impressive sound. ‘Det förtegna förflutna‘ focuses on this aspect of Blodtår‘s sound whilst making it a bit more clear where their sound fits in yet stands out in this realm.
Each of Blodtår‘s two releases are not only carefully curated in their sound design and stylistic venturing but also finely tuned in terms of their aesthetic which most clearly references the illustrations of Swedish artist John Bauer, specifically the Bland tomtar och troll anthology of children’s fables and their depictions of princess Tuvstarr whose distinct crown and flowing blonde hair are interpreted closely on the cover artwork of ‘Blodtår‘. This image isn’t the most “black metal” thing admittedly, well, beyond Mortiis having used the artist’s work for his dungeon synth/ambient works early on yet it -should- invoke a sentimental response from folks who’d recognize this sort of classic and distinctly Swedish fantasy imagery. Sentiment is just one aspect of the atmosphere generated herein, that which is evocative of the glowing magical hidden worlds found in this storybook realm and of course the secluded natural areas which inspire these works. The important notion which the keen listener should pick up on is that the curation of these elements is deeply personal in its inspiration and not shoehorned together out of necessity.
‘Det förtegna förflutna‘ most notably features quite a leap in terms of both production values and lead guitar directive, a sound which should bring to mind the later works of Windir up front as “Skymning” gives way to “Den Fördärvande Sorgebundenheten” but perhaps this will soon read as a superficial comparison once you’ve refreshed your memory with Valfar‘s own style of lead guitar, a different harmonic dynamic in full. Blodtår have more in common with lesser known but perhaps similarly attuned groups like Ljå (‘Til Avsky for Livet‘ is essential) and Angantyr‘s ‘Forvist‘ nearby but doesn’t manifest as raw or harried, instead opting for a very clean and brightly lit recording which is sonorous and stately in its bardic phrasing moreso than it is morbid, though there is a shade of Dissection in Carl‘s compositional scope. It might take some time to fully sink into the idea that this is perhaps more distinctly Swedish than all of the references I’ve made might suggest but we do ultimately arrive upon a folken melodic black metal record with heroic lead guitar work that manages to be narrative in voice, intimate in its lustrous movement, and yet hammered out at a decent speed in most cases.
Side A surely meets the task of introducing this fully realized sound head-on while spinning an undeniably memorable yarn, it’ll have no problem catching and holding the attention of most ears for those first four for so pieces. The pairing of Side B intro “De Dansar På Berget’ with “I Avgrundens Djup” is inspired in its placement as a shot of faster energetic value at a transitional point on the album but it doesn’t punch at the ear as one might expect in introduction of a second half, hardly an issue on a CD release and not a big concern. Without “Uttala Dess Namn” this collective moment might’ve buckled under the immense weight of the album’s first half but it does eventually give rise to one of the more impassioned highs on the album, reminding the attentive listener that this might’ve turned out very lead guitar driven in grand melodic arc’ing throughway but this certainly isn’t a Cor Scorpii album, eh. You’re better off experiencing the joys of the closing piece, another true highlight among several here on this admirably crafted debut, yourself and within several deeper listens. Otherwise it should be obvious enough that the value of this album is high with a quick spin through the two main singles released in promotion of it.
If the goal was in fact to fill the void and revitalize a realm of black metal which is so often approximated by the strange divisions of pagan, folk, and vikingr side-questing while speaking to Swedish naturalism and heritage then consider ‘Det förtegna förflutna‘ a success. For the average listener Blodtår‘s album will more obvious read as a triumph of guitar driven and heartily melodic music in the general black metal sphere, a feat which boldly strikes at a path less trodden and never stumbles, not even for a moment. The fact that there is no amateurish, gritty or loose nodes left in their work is frankly somewhat stunning as this professional standard is a bit ridiculous for a not-so well known group on a debut full-length. It bodes well, spins well, and I’d found myself listening on repeat every chance I got over the last several weeks. A high recommendation.
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