Norway's Evig Natt boldly proclaim their style as that of "Orchestral Black Metal". And they're not the first. In fact, the post-Cradle of Filth/Dimmu Borgir brand of polished black metal has been inextricably associated with symphonic sways; combining orchestral (pseudo and real) elements with their blackened sonic discharge. This bunch have been around since 2003 and have, thus far, released albums in 2007 ('I Am Silence') and 2010 ('Darkland'). A newcomer to Evig Natt, I can't comment on either of those releases in terms of stylistic bias, but six years on we have their eponymously titled third full-length work, and it transcends their self-proclaimed "Orchestral Black Metal" label in the most refreshing of ways. Sure, there are elements of said subgenre - blast-beats; passages of tremolo-picked guitar; orchestrally layered instrumentations; a pervasive darkness; and a degree of sonically induced malevolence. However, I would, with no immediacy, posit Evig Natt within a black metal modus operandi. Their music might be overwhelmingly dark and heavy in places, but their palette is so much wider than any black metal labelling would have you believe.
After a short intro that's rich with both atmosphere and an undercurrent of bass-biased menace (which brings to mind the opening to Sabbat's seminal 'Dreamweaver'), we have the first track good and proper, 'How I Bleed'. I have to be honest and admit that this has been something of a grower for me... and not fully representative of the album as a whole. In fact, I'd say, while increasingly likeable, it's one of weaker tracks on offer. Why? Well, Kirsten Jørgensen's vocals on this opener are not her best. Her voice sounds stretched and somehow discordant (albeit kind of matching the dissonance inherent in the music itself). Stein Roger Sund's harshly executed and quasi-nefarious growls are great, but Kirsten's singing, apart from over the piano interlude near the song's conclusion, is not palatable. It's grown on me with each new listen but still falls short of her vocal prowess on the rest of the album.
And, yes, this is one precise component that sets Evig Natt apart from generic black metal pastiche. Kirsten's singing is magnificent in every way it can be - vocal lines and arrangements; range (tonally and emotional expression); phrasing; power and restraint (depending on the passage of music over which she sings); perfectly controlled vibrato; some interesting inflections; and impassioned throughout. It's the perfect counterpoint to Stein's moribund growls, and offers up profound emotional depths, as well as moments of light and hope, in contrast to his snarled malevolence. Likewise, in the instrumentations, there are many twists and turns skilfully embedded both within and between the black metal core, including some stunningly sublime passages of music, such as when the beautifully performed acoustic guitar kicks in during 'In God I Grieve', with some succulent melodies. In fact, the album's melodically magnificent throughout, be it carving dissonant despair into their musical canvas, or affectively moving moments of true beauty. Oh, and I have to also mention the sublimity of the choirs on 'Silence Falls' and 'Bringer of Ice' - amazing stuff!
The album also has a fantastic production that packs some serious resonant punch during the music's passages of layered heaviness, and with an organic sounding flow to songs' mellower parts. However, there's no over-produced gloss to Evig Natt's overall sound, which is refreshing in a generation of over-zealous Pro Tools polish where all too many bands end up sounding the same. There's just the right amount of sheen, and a great mix too... which is vital with such richly layered instrumentations. This is one of those rare examples where the production itself becomes an inseparable part of a band's overall aesthetic.
I highly recommend Evig Natt's third album, and I also highly recommend you take their self-proclaimed black metal label with a pinch of salt as it offers so much more. This is beauty and darkness reified on an album that succeeds in balancing out aggressive metal extremities with mellower and melodic resplendency, resulting in a profoundly emotional listening experience.
Review by Mark Holmes
19th March 2016
1) The Unkindness of Ravens
2) How I Bleed
3) Silence Falls
4) In God I Grieve
5) Stille for Stormen
7) Bringer of Ice
9) Weathered Emotion
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"This is beauty and darkness reified on an album that succeeds in balancing out aggressive metal extremities with mellower and melodic resplendency, resulting in a profoundly emotional listening experience."