I have been listening to this album for the past couple of days…and I don’t really know where or how to start this review. Having written multiple introductions, which eventually got deleted; I decided to come out with the truth. This album sort of left me speechless.
So, here goes. KVAEN is a solo(!!!) project from Sweden and is the music of a Mr. J. Björnfot whose name might be familiar from bands such as The Duskfall or Autumn Death. Anyway, this certain Mr. Björnfot defines his sound as Black Speed Metal with Viking/Pagan Metal influences, and that description is relatively correct once the opening riff of the first song “Revenge by Fire” starts. But categories and subcategories (and sub-sub categories and sub-sub-sub categories…) aside this album has so much more to offer.
And to my ears, this is some of the greatest (Swedish) Melodic Black/Death Metal I have heard within the past 5 years or so. To cut it short…it’s the type of Metal “we all love and like”. I mean, who doesn’t like the school of Dissection, Sacramentum, Vinterland, Unanimated? Mix in a little bit of mid-era Immortal l, some traditional metal and a few pinches of thrash; add a clear well-balanced production to that and you have one hell of an album.
For those who usually steer clear of one-man bands fearing crappy drum machine programming and whatnot, you can rest.
Mr. Björnfot has seen to it that he has real drums on the album performed by guest musicians. Namely, Perra Karlsson (In Aeternum), Freddy Ortscheid (Entrails), Danni Lyse (Svartsot/Illnath) and Tommi Tuhkala (Spell of Torment/Outlaw). And speaking of guest musicians, this album is filled to the brim with those and further cements it in the 90’s. With people such as Sebastian Ramstedt (Necrophobic) lending his talent on lead guitars on the title song “The Funeral Pyre” or vocals by Pierre Törnkvist (The Moaning/The Everdawn), you should know what awaits you: a killer album, that fits as much in 2020 as it does in the ’90s.
Keyboards make an appearance as well here but worry not. They are kept to a minimum and just slightly accent the songs when needed and never take a leading role, like in the excellent second song “Yee Naaldlooshii”. Almost every song on this album has a definitive highlight which definitely adds to the replay value of this gem. Be it the thrashy mid-section of the aforementioned opener, the modernish riffing (followed by a neoclassical driven solo) on “Septem Peccata Mortalia” or the epic closer “Hymn to Kvenland”, this album has it all and is beautifully varied and has something for everyone.
The simple cover art of the album is tasteful, yet it does not represent the music that is featured once you dig deeper. This is one of those releases that can’t be judged by simply looking at the artwork or logo.
By releasing Kvaen‘s debut album the duo Oliver Dahlbäck and Marcus Cerruti, who are behind the Swedish label Black Lion Records have proved once again that they have a knack for selecting bands with “that special something”. For those listeners who are more into digital music distribution, do yourself a favor and pick up a shirt or hoodie with the album artwork. This is a band/project that definitely warrants your support.