Written by: Bane Ov Silence
Black metal, when done poorly, is one of the most exhausting and often repetitive forms of metal. While the genre is home to many talented individuals, who are masters at songwriting and playing their respective instruments, the raw sound and sheer misanthropy of the genre can leave the listener feeling drained by the end of a full album. While there is a time and a place for this type of music, after listening to black metal album after black metal album for the past month, I was ready for a change of pace.
That’s why I was extremely hesitant to review this new Kvean album and give it the time it deserves. The last thing I wanted to listen to was another one-man pagan Scandinavian black metal project. (You and me both, my friend! - Ed.) However, The Funeral Pyre is extremely refreshing when compared to other records in the genre, and sets itself apart from the countless generic sounding raw black metal bands.
Even though The Funeral Pyre isn’t as dark as many other records in the genre, it is still undoubtedly black metal and doesn’t compromise in any department. Of particular note it the guitar work, which is very melodic for a black metal record. It manages to maintain the wall-of-sound feel that black metal is known for, yet I can still clearly make out every note played, which sounds oxymoronic, but works in the context of the record. The music doesn’t feel as linear as many other black metal records. Often, songs will have slow parts, which help to break up the monotony of the constant blast beats. Many of the riffs on this album use the guitar techniques you would expect on a black metal record, such as palm muting and pinch harmonics, yet there is always an extra flair to them, whether it be a second guitar synchronizing, or another riff played over the top that helps give the songs more dynamics. The album isn’t packed full of solos, but when they are played, they are definitely enjoyable but perhaps not groundbreaking.
The album features four guest drummers, which had me very excited, but I’m sad to say that they are all very underwhelming. While they are all talented drummers, none of them have a unique voice. I honestly couldn’t tell any of them apart, and while that might be an intentional choice to make the album sound more consistent as a whole, it is still disappointing. Let me reiterate: the drumming is not bad by any means, just uninspired and standard from what you would expect in a black metal album. The drums seem like a afterthought, but don’t detract from the excellent guitar work on the record.
The vocals on The Funeral Pyre are good, but tend to fall into the same trap as the drums. It’s the same screeched high throughout the whole album. Even though they aren’t great, they serve their purpose. The bass on the record is meaty and gives the whole record a thick sound. It also compliments the guitar riffs very well, which should always be a bass players number one goal.
In conclusion, this is another great black metal record in a year where we have (already!) had a lot of great black metal records. While some aspects of the record can be uninteresting on their own, it all comes together to make a satisfying experience chocked full o' catchy riffs, and manages to find the perfect balance between melody and blistering frost-bitten black metal. Even if you don’t normally enjoy black metal, give this record a listen.
Kvaen - The Funeral Pyre will be released Feb. 28th from Black Lion Records
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.