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Metal Hammer

Formed as a studio based project in 2005 by the prolific King Ov Hell (Gorgoroth, Sahg, Audrey Horne) and Kvitrafn (Gorgoroth, Sahg, Siegfader) to make "black metal in honour of [their] Nordic heritage", this, their debut, is an unsettling blend of mid-tempo necro and Arctic ambient passages. The vocals are blood curling, the shrieg of a Viking bezerker, a scream that alternates between agony and rage. It's impenetrable in places but darkly appealing in others, a great viscious wall of light-sucking noise, heavy on the doom-metal influences with no unnecessary production frills. It's an interesting album and certainly not one for the casual dabbler. But for true denizens of the murky black metal underworld, it's an album that should definitely be checked out.

Reviewed by Tommy Udo


Terrorizer • 7/10

The influence that Cold Spring's back catalogue has had upon black metal, or at least those strands of it that still ache for the genuinely morbid, is one rarely noted. The festering ambiences inspired by this label's roster upon the host of blackened cave dwellers (see Xasthur, Leviathan, Nordvargr, Sargeist) have provided some of the most enduring BM offerings of the last five years in particular. Not to be outdone, King and Kvitrafn, currently and formerly of Gorgoroth, have conspired with Cold Spring's new dedicated sub-label to bring forth an atmospheric tome of their own. This slow foreboding black metal in the old Norse style, with its meditative and runic feel conveys the atmospheres of dank, pine scented grimmnity well. Though the ambient intermezzos between tracks could probably have been done effortlessly and more icily by any of Cold Spring's main usual suspects, they are nonetheless eerie, and the clanking, atavistic black metal component is equally haunting. A diverting rather than essential piece, you get the feeling that it was put together for its own kudos rather than any real statement. But it's above average, and haunting enough in the right setting.

Reviewed by Ciarán Tracey


Synthesis

NOT content with operating what, for me, is the best record label in England, Satanas Rex is Justin Mitchell's new Black Metal sideline. Every man needs a bit on the side, or so they say, and this is his scarlet woman from the watery environs of Bergen on the south-west coast of Norway. The more observant among you will recognise Bergen as the home of the infamous Varg Vikernes. According to their MySpace page, Jotunspor make 'Black Metal in honour of Nordic heritage' and are purely a studio outfit with no intention whatsoever of performing live. The group was formed in 2005 by King (Gorgoroth, Sahg) and Kvitrafn (formerly of Gorgoroth and Sahg and now part of Sigfader), and this CD comes in black and brown with a wolf prowling its way across the cover.

The eight tracks on this album were recorded over a two-month period and begin with 'Gleipnirs Smeder', a riff-laden slice of neo-doom which starts off in a fairly minimalistic vein before evolving into a menacing cocktail of rumbling bass and tortured vocals. Unlike a lot of contemporary Black Metal, however, the guitars are very structured and only the incalculable drumbeats tell you that the whole thing is racing along at a thousand kilometers an hour. Towards the end the vocals become 'cleaner' and there is a real anthemic touch to it all. For several atmospheric minutes a few aquatic-like samples can be heard as 'Svartalvheims Djup' arrives on the scene with ominous whispers, tinkering bells and a gradual rumbling. Amid deep groans and sinister cackles this sophisticated ambient interlude eventually pans out into something fairly reminiscent of early Endura or perhaps even Lustmord. But it's certainly a very impressive and well-crafted track and clearly demonstrates that, given half a chance, these boys can turn their hands to anything. 'Solartjuven' is more of a return to traditional Black Metal, but even here Jotunspor display an unmistakable flair and originality that easily surpasses many of their peers. Again, there is a slight doom element to their music but the overall tempo is heightened by carefully placed layers of sound that range from rythmic growls and screams of anguish to lycanthropic howls and crashing thunder. The guitars are brilliant, delivered with an unremitting energy that is borne of the Viking bloodline. Amazing stuff. But before you even have a chance to catch your breath, 'Freke Han Renn.' shoves a cloven hoof right down onto the musical accelerator and sends us plunging though the churning fjords of this ongoing North European odyssey. The agonising vocals are drawn out and sustained, each line concluding like a man falling into a spiraling abyss of desperation. The diverse fretwork on this song shows talent and versatility. And then comes 'Sol Mun Svartne'. Now, either there's a sixteen-armed octopus on drums or Jotunspor have employed the relentless services of a hammering blacksmith chock-full of amphetamines. Everything becomes an overwhelming blur of dizzying action and this track is possibly the most powerful on the album. The vocals are a little similar to Cradle of Filth in places, too, but whilst a lot of BM disciples like to slander this great English institution I'm actually being complimentary. The awesome pace and dynamism continue well on into 'Ginnungagalder', pausing here and there to allow Kvitrafn to snarl his way through the whole range of dark Norse vocals. The guitars adopt a tone of suspense and trepidation, although they retain a constant drive and determination that gives the song a dependable, solid-as-a-rock quality. As 'Ginnungagalder' fades away, 'Ildkrig' ascends to the throne with choratic sound effects and the rolling onslaught of a militaristic snare. The lyrics are deliberately repetitive and have a sense of impatience and urgency, finally brought to a close by the sound of a metallic dragging that resembles a smoking cannon being dragged across freshly scorched earth.

I'm really impressed with this debut Jotunspor album and, when you consider that this is the label's very first release, Satanas Rex has created an almost insurmountable benchmark for others to follow and this should have other BM bands clamouring to join its stable. Meanwhile, for more information, contact www.satanasrex.co.uk

Reviewed by Troy Southgate - www.rosenoire.org


Maelstrom • 10/10

Right now, everybody is singing about how good it was back in the old Pagan days. You could live with honesty and dignity, drink mead, walk or hunt in the forests, be at one with Nature and occasionally crush a Christian skull or two. All fine and well, but it surely couldn't have been that good — there must have been something that they were afraid of, with all the unexplainable things around them? What were their women scaring their children with? What were their nightmares like? What were, in Mayhem's words, their Pagan fears? Probably something like Jotunspor.

When Cold Spring Records approached two ex-members of Gorgoroth, King and Kvitrafn, and asked them to do a "noisy black metal album" for their new sub-label, Satanas Rex, they went to the studio and after two months came out with Gleipnirs Smeder ("Blacksmiths of Gleipnir"). The intention was to make music in honor of their ancient Nordic heritage. The result is all that and more. Jotunspor have united primitive black metal sounds and modern technology into a violent sonic reminder of all the fears engraved in the deepest nature of Man, by all the ages he survived surrounded by dangers and uncertainty of primitive life. Most of us have never been aware of it, in our comfortable, modern environments, but this is something that absolutely has to be acknowledged.

The first, title track, sets the tone for the rest of the album — the sound is commanding and overwhelming. Gloomy guitars, distant howls and echoes, metallic industrial sounds, tormented singing and simple, relentless drumming bring a shivery, claustrophobic feeling and a freezing atmosphere. Simple riffs in a classic Norwegian necro style and bestial vocals have never sounded this haunting, almost like Transilvanian Hunger, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and new Gorgoroth merged into one horrifying entity.

"Svartalvheims Djup" comes as a surprise and a question — it's only the second track, and it is a seven-minute, ambient track with cave sounds, slow, rumbling bass and more haunting voices from the dark past. It might sound unreasonable to put such a track so early — but when you realize that it's a continuation of "Gleipnirs Smeder," it becomes a natural part of the album. There is a feeling that Jotunspor could have made ambient versions of all the other songs — and they would be as scary as the distorted, metal ones.

The logical continuation comes with "Solartjuven," a slow, engulfing, Bathory-type piece sounding like something that has been buried and forgotten countless ages ago, now striving to awake and return from dust and oblivion, with a vengeance for those who have forgotten or ignored their primeval, archetypal instincts.

The next three tracks are a return to simplistic, epic, thunderous, mesmerizing black metal. The rhythms change from simple beats to furious blasts, and the suffocating atmosphere just becomes more and more intense — waves of primal sonic impacts leaving nothing behind them. The suitable ending, but not in any way a release from the pressure, is titled "Ildkrig," and presents itself as a combination of tribal, marching drums and meditative chanting surrounded by a wall of ancient noise.

Jotunspor is a studio project with no intentions of playing live. It is still not certain whether there will be any more albums — but with Gleipnirs Smeder, for at least once — the past is alive and here to haunt you.

Reviewed by Mladen Škot - www.maelstrom.nu


Antenna • 8/10

It's beyond me why Jotunspor's debut, Gleipnirs Smeder, has passed everyone's attention when the musical ante is highest calibre. The album has been out for several months, but I finally got my copy for promotion, hence these pithy words.

Formed by two ex-members of Gorgoroth, King OV Hell and Kvitrafn, Jotunspor have resurrected the expression that Gorgoroth and other bands from Bergen had in store for the audience in the mid-90's, but the duo has coupled this derivation with Viking-styled lyrics and titles, although the presence of these appear to be insignificant compared to the musical quality. Elaborate and intricate mid- and up-tempo black metal, without being technical. Atmosphere rather than sheer aggression. A vocalist expressing variation and melody rather than rasping out something unrecognizable.

Once might argue that Jotunspor merely replicate a well-known formula, but this injection gets insignificant when the music is the quintessence of how black metal should sound like; before old-school black metal [from several of Norway's bands began to take its toll, e.g. the aforementioned Gorgoroth].

Reviewed by Lolk - www.antenna.nu



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