Before the review starts, here is some information about the band.
Started during sole member Nattskog’s teenage years, the first demo was released in 2012 which has now been re-issued on tape.
In 2015 came the first full album ‘Hymns of the Dead’ which was released digitally and on CD and tape with a 7” vinyl as well.
With only a handful of gigs being played due to ever changing live lineups, the focus has always been more on recorded music.
This latest album, Hagall was released in Summer 2018 with a CD and digital release at first and an upcoming tape release in September via Death Kvlt Productions.
Sykelig Englen is currently signed to AHPN records and remains to be a solo project in studio of Norwegian musician Nattskog.
As for the review – bear in mind that I am no real BM fan, but with an open mind and plenty of history around liking and seeing Thrash and Death Metal in its heyday, this is what I thought about it…
“Avant garde is one phrase that can be applied to this album. From the the artwork itself which is so colourful it could be mistaken for an 80s NWOBHM album hitherto lost in the archives of Neat Records.
The opener, “Euphoric Wasteland”, is a prime example of the intricate sounds weaved by frontman and orchestrator Nattskog. High pitched growls/screams are the order of the day, interspersed with melancholy lines, very much in the Pandemonium Frost style.
“Two Legged Disease” follows on, with it’s fast paced precision drumming and harmonised guitar leads, again with a Frostian guitar pattern that is pleasing to the ear.
The one thing the reviewer notes is that the drumming is almost certainly programmed, so can appear slightly ‘false’ if that’s the correct description, in some cases. However, the majority of the album does not really betray the digital roots.
“Obsessive” follows next and for me has hints of Voivod in the mix, in their progressive era.
The title track is up next and is full-on Frost worship or dare I say Dark Throne? For someone who never really got into the whole Black Metal thing at all, Hagall is arguably the stand out track.
“Spinning Rooms And Forestlands” kicks in and and again, this is nto your typical run of the mill BM at all… very melodic in places, punctuated by atonal guitar breaks.
“Echoes From A Tragic Past” hits you with machine gun double-kick drumming and sorrowful guitars, quickly turning to an aural assault.
“Nostalgic Nausea” keeps the pace going, with Nattskog screeching out the vocals once more as a sort of distant ghoul or banshee. Pounding and incessant!
“To Welcome Perdition” follows and it is this track (and the next) in particular that the digitised drumming is at its most obvious to me. Saying that, it is not sustained and the pace changes after a few measures, keeping the listener attentive.
“Malaise” features keyboards – again for me not something I’d usually assocaite with BM – indeed the only other band I can say I’ve heard or seen with keyboards is Samael. A brutal assault and more atonal lead work feature here contrasting nicely with the almost symphonic keyboards.
“A World Rid Of Man” blends in immediately here and continues the feel that Euphoric Wasteland offers.
“AHPN” is the penultimate almost a sequel to the previous track, fitting in nicely.
“The Grieving Process” closes off the album and is more of a film soundtrack, with sorrowful keyboards and flutes harmonising and is quite fitting as the closer for me – underpinning the whole avant garde approach that Nattskog has taken.
All in all, a welcome change from the vomiting growls and deafening dirge I’d usually associate with BM groups (call me a heathen or blasphemous if you will, it not really my scene), but this is something I could and will indeed come back to. Something to watch out for!