Gjengangere I Hjertets Mørke by Dold Vorde Ens NavnRelease date: September 13, 2019
Label: Soulseller Records
There are a lot of reasons to remember, and perhaps envy, Norway’s metal scene in the 90s. It was volatile, a time when the rules of metal were being written, rewritten and almost immediately being incinerated by the next iconoclast on the block, but it was also a time of great fluidity. The reason that such great creativity could flourish was due to the fact that, on one level at least, all the players were on the same page. They had the same vision for what black metal could and should be, and this led to some great exchanges of ideas, as well as a revolving-door approach to membership and one-off projects of which Dold Vorde Ens Navn is a glorious throwback.
With Dødheimsgard founder Vicotnik and former bassist Cerberus, Satyricon co-founder Håvard ‘Haavard’ Jørgensen and Nidingr drummer Øyvind Myrvoll (also currently picking up sticks for Dødheimsgard) within their ranks, there’s already an indication of the quality and expertise on display in Gjengangere I Hjertets Mørke. It’s an elite line-up but given the musicians involved, it’s almost impossible to gauge in advance how it will sound. If anything, that’s the most predictable thing about a release that never quite goes the way you would expect.
‘Den Ensomme Død’ opens with a righteously chanted vocal line and a riff that strides confidently onwards with near-regal poise, but the abrupt shift into d-beat tubthumping and Vicotnik working his mad magic, hurriedly ranting in a stream-of-subconsciousness diatribe helps to keep the flow just off-kilter enough to make it interesting. Though that same sense of manic aggression is always returned to, Dold never stick rigidly to a single tempo or atmosphere, with Haavard’s impromptu solo showing a speedy, deft skill that was never fully explored in his time with Ulver while offsetting the quietly introspective moments that rear their misshapen heads.
If anything, ‘Drukkenskapens Kirkegård’ is something of a return to normality as, of the four offerings here, this feels the most like a second-wave throwback, from Myrvoll’s relentless blastbeats to Haavard’s whirling, wheeling riffing (even his tone itself has just that right amount of treble to bring about a cold and frosty feeling in the heart). ‘Vitnesbyrd’ follows suit, albeit with a touch more theatricality from Vicotnik who functions more as a seer or storyteller than anything resembling a vocalist, but if they do tend to tread old ground, they also aim for the same adventurous spirit of yore with great success. They strive for, and attain, a weirdly psychedelic atmosphere throughout this EP, something askew from the norm that requires a certain mindset to completely tap into.
Final track ‘Blodets Hvisken’ is both the most surprising offering as well as the most akin to what could have been expected from these players. Haavard maintains a light tone but plays with intertwining melodies, Cerberus and Myrvoll keep a tight, propulsive rein on the song’s myriad twists and turns and Vicotnik chants, whispers and shrieks across five minutes of bewildering Oslo magic. It’s straightforward in its outlook but with each listen, layers are unearthed and a keen catchiness comes to the surface.
It’s true that Gjengangere… won’t please everyone, as it never feels like it’s trying to cater to anyone in particular. There are shades of the past and anyone who knows their history will be able to pick apart every second that’s recorded here, but that’s not the point. This is four guys that have done the rounds getting together to create something that they still find exciting and if you can appreciate that energy at work, you’ll see past the cracks and spot the gold hidden beneath the surface.